Managing product-related environmental legislation

As a way to protect the environment, and ultimately human health, from harmful effects, governments set up a series of laws and regulations. Generally referred to as “environmental legislation”, this external driver  forms a crucial piece for businesses to safely play the game in their industries with lots of specificities and varying levels of complexity.

For instance, the European Union (EU) alone has more than 200 legal acts to be observed and monitored in all of its 27 Member States, according to the European Commission. Usually, these laws and regulations cover all environmental sectors (water, air, nature, waste, noise, and chemicals etc.). Additionally, more emphasis has been posed on environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a way to formally anticipate environmental consequences of a given action.

Companies around the globe have also been presented with stricter legislation on liability for environmental damage and higher demands for access to environmental information from multiple stakeholders. Initially, within this context, some “end-of-pipe” techniques started to be adopted, aiming at removing contaminants from industrial streams at the last stages of production processes. Later on, the emergence of preventive postures, crystallized by initiatives such as Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention, were based on the reduction of waste at the source of production processes.

Recently, a wave of proactive engagements have been observed mainly focusing on the environmental performance of products and associated with a lifecycle thinking. Any product impacts the environment throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. Therefore, a number of laws, regulations, directives and standards emphasizes product-related requirements and defines significant restrictions regarding the production and use of many substances. Some examples of well-known pieces of legislation and standards in the EU include:

  • Integrated Product Policy (IPP): aims at minimizing the environmental impacts by covering all phases of a products’ lifecycle and taking action where it is most effective;
  • RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances – Directive 2002/95/EC): restricts the use of six hazardous materials in electronic and electrical equipment;
  • WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – Directive 2002/96/EC): sets targets for collection, recycling and recovery of electrical goods. It forms an important part of efforts towards addressing the issue of increased amounts of toxic electronic waste;
  • REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances – EC 1907/2006): holds industry responsible for managing risks related to the use of chemicals and for providing accurate information on different types of substances;
  • ISO 14.001:2015 – the new version of ISO 14.001 was released on September 15th, 2015, bringing more emphasis to top management involvement and accountability for environmental performance, along with environmental impacts management across the entire value chain. You can read more about the new ISO 14.001 on our blog post.

It is also expected that the complexity of environmental legislation and standards related to products will keep increasing over the next years globally, including emerging markets such as the BRIC countries. The understanding of environmental legislation is critical to ensure compliance and also go beyond. On one hand, the landscape for environmental legislation is undoubtedly more complex. On the other hand, it hides a collection of opportunities for companies to exploit. If well managed and monitored, environmental legislation can help companies thrive in a competitive scenario by fundamentally evaluating the legislative implications on its product development processes and extracting the best out of proactive approaches. By better understanding and managing the complexity of environmental legislation, companies are able to tap into new markets, niches, geographies and exploit innovation potential from legislative aspects.

By means of essensus’ approach, we’re able to definitely support companies to enhance sustainability maturity in the process of effectively and continuously monitoring, understanding and acting upon the tougher environmental  legislation scenario. We’ve been supporting companies through the adoption and internalization of management practices such as: (i) identification of relevant product-related environmental laws and regulations and (ii) deployment of environmental product-related requirements based on the relevant legislation.

If you’re now wondering how we can take this leap with your company, do not hesitate to drop us a line and we’ll be more than happy to assist you along the way.