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EC’s Single Market for Green Products: A Standard Measure of Environmental Impact in Europe

The European Commission's new initiative, launched in April, cannot come soon enough for companies selling environmentally-conscious products in Europe.  As of now, any company seeking to market Green products across European borders faces a confusing nightmare of red tape and expense. The vast number criteria for evaluating the environmental impact of a company or commodity in Europe saps the private sector of time and capital, and the EC hopes to relieve that friction with a voluntary standard for EU member states with the Single Market for Green Products initiative.   In his announcement of the new initiative this past April, European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik was clear: “European companies, and also the companies of our trading partners, will be able to use – if they wish to do so - a single method to market their green products compared the current patchwork of national and private schemes.”  For Green companies worldwide, this is a relief and an opportunity to much more easily and cheaply invest in dozens of countries.

The European Commision's Single Market for Green Products Initiatve

This splintering of environmental measures can also be flummoxing to consumers inundated with so much information but no sole set of criteria with which to judge. European polling outlet Eurobarometer found that 48% of EU consumers were confused by environmental information and measures.  This confusion leads to apathy and an inability to act for the betterment of the environment as well as distrust of claims companies make about the environment. The aforementioned Eurobarometer found in 2009 that only 6% of EU citizens trust producers’ claims about their products’ environmental performance completely. The Single Market for Green Products initiative would not only provide consumers with a standardized method for judging the environmental impact of a product or business, it would bolster any businesses’ truthful claim to environmental friendliness.

The goal of the EC's new Single Market for Green Products initiative is to improve clarity and transparency for the company and consumer by way of two main measuring tools: the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and the Organizational Environmental Footprint (OEF).  The former will be a rubric for determining the impact of a commodity has on the planet, while the former looks at the Green-ness of the company itself.  The project includes a three-year testing period, launching November 2013, to establish the various product and sector–specific measurements to be tested by volunteer companies. Applications have closed for most sectors, but there will be a second call for applicants in the food/drink industries in 2014. This process - a period of trial and review by actual real-world companies - ensures that the standard measures created by the Single Market for Green Products initiative will be fair, understandable, and applicable.

The EC's Single Market for Green Products initiative will provide an open and user-friendly means for a company to market itself as green to a more educated public, creating a more direct economy while helping the environment.  It will be a good thing for businesses of all sizes, the consumer, and Earth itself.

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