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Product & Consumer Protection Mid-Year Review 2023

Our Products and ESG teams discuss the introduction of new ESG product legislation and initiatives, including the EU's circular economy plans, the Eco-design Sustainable Products Regulation and the CSRD.

Welcome to the fourth edition of our Product & Consumer Protection Mid-Year Review 2023.

In the six months since our 2022 Annual Review, there has been a lot happening in the environmental sphere with the introduction of new ESG product legislation and initiatives. These include a proposal by the European Commission to introduce a Green Claims Directive[1] aimed at tackling ‘greenwashing’ and dubious environment labelling schemes, which are considered the two key misleading commercial practices concerning the sustainability of products. As these measures are introduced with the aim of achieving greater transparency and accuracy of product sustainability claims, the regulatory landscape is becoming increasingly complex for market players.

There is also increasing consumer demand for product sustainability, meaning ESG is now front and centre of corporate policy. It is important for companies to understand the regulations they are subject to. In this edition, we review the key developments in 2023 so far and look ahead to the second half of 2023:

  1. As part of the EU’s circular economy action plan, Member States have implemented extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes for four waste streams. They are packaging, batteries, ELVs, and WEEE. Ireland has implemented schemes for those four waste streams, plus two additional schemes for tyres and farm plastics. We review these six schemes, including recent and proposed changes to some of the schemes, and we also identify additional waste streams for which schemes are expected to be introduced.
  2. The EU recognises the difficulty faced by consumers when trying to make sense of the environmental performance of products as it appears on labels. This is because many producers are misleading consumers. The European Commission has proposed the Green Claims Directive aimed at tackling this problem. The Directive will ensure that environmental claims are credible and should create an incentive for more sustainable production methods of more sustainable products
  3. The Eco-design Sustainable Products Regulation aims to build upon the achievements of the Eco-design Directive by expanding its scope beyond energy related products. The Regulation will create eco-design requirements for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market, to ensure an improvement in their overall environmental performance. The new regime includes a proposal to introduce a ‘digital product passport’ that will inform consumers about a product’s environmental sustainability.
  4. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive is to come into force in Ireland by June 2024. The Directive aims to harmonise and improve the nature and extent of ESG information that is made available to stakeholders. It will impose mandatory sustainability reporting requirements on approximately 50,000 companies across the EU and beyond. These include large ‘public interest’ undertakings, large undertakings, listed SMEs, and certain non-EU undertakings which have a significant presence in the EU. However, many businesses do not know if they will be subject to it. We explain who will be subject to the Directive and what they need to do to comply with it.
  5. The amendment to the Packaging Regulations in December 2022 changes the EPR scheme for packaging. We will look at the effect these changes are going to have for ‘major producers’ of packaging, including what a ‘major producer’ is and what they will have to do to comply with the amended regulations.
  6. The existing Product Liability Directive has provided an effective compensation mechanism for those who suffer damage caused by defective products in the EU. However, recent technological advances have led to the creation of a new generation of products that challenge some of the core rules and concepts underpinning the Product Liability Directive. The EU has proposed a revised Product Liability Directive to modernise the law. It aims to ensure liability rules reflect the nature and risks of products in the digital age and circular economy, improve access to justice, and ensure legal certainty by codifying relevant caselaw.

As we enter the second half of 2023, we cover these issues and much more with the aim of providing a useful reference for stakeholders navigating an increasingly complex ESG landscape and circular economy.

Download your copy of the Review via the link below in Related Downloads.

[1] Proposal for a Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims, published on 22 March 2023

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