Specific implementation goals

Sustainable products - the signs are green

Sustainability – the word is used almost inflationarily today. To ensure that words are followed by deeds, a fixed approach and defined time horizons are needed. The European and German guard rails for a sustainable transformation of our society already exist. Now the topic is visibly gaining momentum in its implementation. With increasing effects on the furniture industry.

Apr 27 2022

Since the concept of sustainability is subject to numerous definitions in science, a correct classification is important. The World Commission on Environment and Development defined it in 1987 as follows: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." 

This sums up our problem with sustainability. In 2021, 70 per cent more resources were consumed than the Earth can safely replenish. A finding from the Circle Economy organisation's latest report – "CIRCULARITY GAP REPORT 2021". 

We live in a time of global climate change caused by us, limited availability of resources and supply bottlenecks in a global economy focused on growth. Linear business models are the practice. This means that there are hardly any possibilities to stop the consumption of resources and to transfer the materials used into cycles. 

What does the countermeasure look like to achieve sustainability in practice and to enable a future fit for grandchildren for the generations to come? 

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The roadmap is in place 

The European Commission has laid the foundation in 2019 with European Green Deal and expanded it even more specifically in 2020 with the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) (factsheet). The current coalition agreement of the German Federal Government builds on this and for the first time also anchors the topic of the circular economy in it as a future guiding principle for Germany's social development. 

Excerpt: 

  • "We promote the circular economy as an effective climate and resource protection, opportunity for sustainable economic development and jobs." 
  • "We have the goal of reducing primary raw material consumption and closed material cycles. To this end, we are adapting the existing legal framework, defining clear targets and reviewing waste legislation."  
  • "We are bundling existing raw material policy strategies in a "National Circular Economy Strategy". On this basis, we advocate uniform standards in the EU. Requirements for products must be set ambitiously and uniformly across Europe in dialogue with manufacturers."  
  • "Products must be durable, reusable, recyclable and, if possible, repairable. We strengthen extended producer responsibility at European level."  

The principle definitions are then followed by the increasingly binding implementation requirements for companies. 

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Using the train of time 

Until plans result in legal regulations, they pass through many committees and are recommended to companies via initiatives, applications and recommendations during this period on the basis of voluntary uptake and implementation. Even after that, there are always transitional periods until mandatory implementation. 

Using this time to prepare for what is to come is crucial for companies to secure their competitiveness and ultimately their market access. Above all for two reasons. The temporal pace from voluntary to mandatory is increasing and implementation requires the development of new circular business models. 

The example of the last point from the excerpt of the coalition agreement on the circular economy shows the impact on the economy with already initiated and upcoming requirements. 

"Products - durable, reusable, recyclable and, if possible, repairable." The tools for implementation: Right to Repair Regulation and the Ecodesign Directive. Ahead of a Commission proposal on the Right to Repair, scheduled for the third quarter of 2022, the European Parliament adopted its demands on 7 April.  

Among the measures MEPs will call for in the upcoming legislative proposal: 

  • Repairs should be made more attractive to consumers, for example by offering premiums for repairing a defective appliance or receiving a replacement appliance for the duration of the repair,
  • Manufacturers should be required to provide free access to repair and maintenance information and guarantee software updates for a minimum period, 
  • Appliances should be more durable, easier to repair and contain removable and replaceable parts, 
  • Consumers should be given more and better information about the reparability of appliances, 
  • Warranty periods should be extended. 

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Next stop: Sustainable Products Initiative 

Already in March 2021, the furniture sector was named for the first time in the CEAP with reference to the Ecodesign Directive. A further step – with corresponding adjustments to the directive - will follow in 2022 when the European Commission adopts it as a regulation. The Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI). Once again – the furniture sector. 

In terms of content, the aim is to use binding requirements to ensure that all products sold in the EU become more sustainable and recyclable in the future. The focus here is specifically on the beginning of the circular models - the design. According to estimates by the EU Commission, approximately 80 percent of the environmental impact of products can be traced back to the design phase.  

The goal is to use incentive systems for the economy to make products more sustainable starting with the design along the value chain – with specifications on recyclability, reparability and service life, among other things. Companies in the furniture industry will only succeed in implementing the upcoming regulations with the corresponding circular business models. Time to act – the train is rolling. 

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Portrait of Andre Hempel
Andre Hempel Senior Management
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