Why to eco-design a product and\or a service?
What are the incentives?

Regulatory and prescriptive framework

The environmental regulation is constantly evolving. It has switched from a curative approach in the 1970s (treating contaminations) to a preventative approach (anticipating the impacts, notably with the environmental certification of the sites).
Since the early 2000s (or the mid 1990s for packaging), environmental regulation has evolved into an integrated approach with the development of a regulatory framework targeting products: prevention at source, producer responsibility regarding the end of life of their products, eco-design of certain products, etc.

European regulatory context

Since the early 2000s, European legislation has evolved into an integrated approach with the implementation of:

  • the extended producer responsibility principle (EPR). The extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products
  • the Integrated Product Policy (IPP)

Consequently, a European legislative framework for more environmentally friendly products was developed, integrating upstream requirements in terms of prevention at source (heavy metal concentration, reduced packaging weight and/or volume, etc.), downstream requirements at the end of life of the products as well as requirements affecting the entire cycle to be integrated during the design phase.

Nevertheless, there is currently no generic legislation aimed at regulating eco-design, only directives specific to certain product categories:

The modified European directive of 20 December 1994 (94/62/EC) on packaging and packaging waste covers all environmental requirements associated with packaging placed on the market within the EU. In addition to targeting recycling and recovery figures, it defines “essential requirements”:
- Reduction at source in packaging weight and/or volume
- Reduction in the content of environmentally hazardous substances
- End-of-life reuse and/or recovery.

Compliance with these requirements can be controlled and must be subject to mandatory registrations:
- Declaration of conformity
- Technical documents.
To facilitate and verify the implementation of these requirements, 6 European standards have been established (EN 13427 to 13432). Compliance with these standards is a way to enforce the directive’s requirements.


The directive of 18 September 2000 (2000/53/EC) on end-of-life vehicles (ELV) aims at preventing the end of life of this waste by imposing measures for:
- Prevention: certain heavy metals are prohibited (mercury, lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium) except in cases of technical impossibility; design facilitating dismantling, reuse, recovery and recycling; use of recycled materials in vehicles and other products,
- Collection: only to authorized facilities; instigation of a certificate of destruction; free ELV take-back, the potential cost being borne by producers,
- Treatment: minimum technical requirements regarding storage and treatment; determined schedule of treatment actions,
- Recovery: target recovery figures.

  • Electrical and electronic equipment:

In 2003, two directives were simultaneously adopted:
- the directive of 27 January 2003 (2002/95/EC) on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, known as RoHS directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances).

- the directive of 27 January 2003 (2002/96/EC) on waste electrical and electronic equipment, known as WEEE directive.

  • Energy-using products:

- The directive of 6 July 2005 (2005/32/EC) establishes a framework for setting eco-design requirements for energy-consuming products, known as EuP directive (Energy-using Products)
This framework directive defines the conditions, criteria and principles for setting environmental requirements, by focusing on action in the design phase as the impacts of the entire life cycle of a product are “determined” at this stage.

European Commission work plan:
On 21 October 2008, the European Commission presented the work plan for the 2009-2011 period. This plan stipulates an indicative list of 10 groups of products considered priorities for the adoption of implementing measures.
Schedule of implementation measures and preparatory studies for each group of products

Extension of the EuP directive to all energy-related products

On 24 April 2009, the European Parliament approved the extension of the EuP directive to all energy-related products. “Energy-related products” refers to:
•    energy-using products, as currently defined in the directive, which directly consume energy such as refrigerators, television sets, etc.
•    products with an “indirect” impact on energy consumption as their function does not require any energy, such as windows, insulating material, showers and taps. For example, it can apply to water-using devices such as economical shower heads which reduce water consumption and therefore the amount of energy used for hot water production.

European perspectives:

In 2011, the Commission will publish its second revised work plan: new energy-related product groups may be considered.
In 2012, the Commission will examine the efficiency of the directive on eco-design and decide, based on this examination, on the possibility of extending the scope of the directive to non energy-related products.

Other regulation relative to products: