The UK’s economy and businesses depend on global trade and resources. However, factors like climate change and a growing world population mean there’s more pressure on energy, natural resources and the wider environment.
We need to make our economy and businesses more sustainable, so we can grow the economy and also reduce our environmental impact.
Using resources (like water, energy and natural materials) more efficiently will bring direct benefits to UK businesses, including:
- saving around £23 billion a year
- reducing their carbon emissions
- more resilience to climate change and rising prices of commodities
If businesses provide clear and relevant information about the environmental impacts and performance of products and services, consumers can make informed choices about what they buy.
Encouraging resource efficiency and environmental management
We’re helping businesses use resources more efficiently and manage their environmental impacts by:
funding the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which gives advice and support to help businesses use raw materials, water and energy more efficiently
working with industry and others to implement the Resource security action plan
using the purchasing power of government and the wider public sector to support businesses that produce more sustainable products and services
funding the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Environmental Awards Forum, which accredits other organisations’ environmental award schemes, to make sure these have high standards
Supporting innovations that make products and services more environmentally friendly
‘Eco-innovations’ are new or improved technologies, products or services that reduce impact on the environment and the use of natural resources. We’re:
piloting the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) programme. This scheme aims to increase investor confidence in new innovative technologies through third party verification of performance. The pilot covers Energy, Water and Waste technologies. The UK’s first verification bodies are the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Water Research Centre (WRC)
helping organisations apply for EU funding to develop green products and services through the National Contact Point for eco-innovation and industrial bio-technology
Supporting business to innovate to reduce environmental impacts of products and supply chains, providing funding through a number of competitions such as: Supply chain innovation towards a circular economy
This is part of wider government work to invest in research, development and innovation.
Improving the sustainability of UK consumption
About 75% of each person’s carbon emissions in the UK are from products and services.
To identify where the biggest impacts are, and help business target their work on sustainability, we’re:
- publishing annual data on the UK’s carbon footprint
- publishing evidence that shows these consumption-based emissions broken down by sector and geographic origin
We’re also encouraging businesses to make consumer products more sustainable.
Giving consumers clear information about the impact of products and goods on the environment
To help consumers make informed choices about the products and services they buy, we’re:
advising business on how to make good environmental claims in marketing and advertising
Working in Europe and internationally
We’re working with other EU member states on plans to encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and a shift towards resource-efficient economic growth.
We’re inputting to the EU Single Market for Green Products Initiative
Defra co-ordinates work in the UK on the 10-Year Framework Programme (10YFP) for international work on sustainable consumption and production.
In 2011 to 2012 low carbon and environmental goods and services were worth £128 billion and employed around 938,000 in the UK.
In August 2011, we published Enabling the transition to a green economy: government and business working together. This was intended to give the private sector more clarity on what we mean by a ‘green economy’ and the policies we’re putting in place to achieve this, including action on climate change, resource efficiency and waste.
The Environmental Audit Committee published ‘A green economy’ in April 2012. This recommended several measures the government should take to improve its strategy and policies to support the move to the green economy.
The government responded to the committee’s recommendations in July 2012, building on the approach set out in Enabling the transition to a green economy.
Defra is developing a new set of sustainable development indicators. These will help us review progress.
In March 2012, we published the Resource Security Action Plan, to help business identify and plan for potential shortages of raw materials, and associated problems like volatile prices. The Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was set up to review the opportunities for UK business from expanding markets in environmentally-friendly goods, services and products, has now published its final report.
Who we’re working with
WRAP co-ordinates the Product Sustainability Forum (PSF), which is a collaboration of grocery retailers and suppliers, academics, NGOs and government. The PSF is working to improve the environmental performance of grocery products.
WRAP also co-ordinates the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan which is a collaboration of retailers, brands, recyclers and charities working together to improve the sustainability of UK clothing consumption.
The Green Economy Council is a group of businesses brought together to discuss how industry and government can support the move to a sustainable economy.
The Circular Economy Task Force looks at ways of capturing materials, so that today’s goods are remanufactured or reused to become tomorrow’s goods, rather than landfill.
We regularly consult with trade organisations and associations and businesses about:
- resource efficiency and product sustainability
- industry views on European Commission proposals
- government sustainable procurement standards
Bills and legislation
The Eco-Design Directive (2009/125/EC) is implemented in the UK by the Eco-Design for Energy-Related Products Regulations 2010 (SI 2010 No.2617). This applies to a wide range of products that use energy, ranging from motors to televisions and is designed to lessen their impact on the environment.
The Energy Information Regulations 2011 implement the revised EU Energy Labelling Framework Directive 2010/30/EU. These cover the duty to give consumers clear information about how much energy a product uses, and to design more energy-efficient products.
There are regulations for various products under the Ecodesign and Energy Directives which apply in the UK. The National Measurement Office (NMO) is responsible for ensuring that products comply with these regulations.
The EU Ecolabel Regulation (2010/66/EC) sets out how the EU Ecolabel scheme operates.
Traders making unfair or misleading environmental claims about products and services can be prosecuted under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The EU Energy Efficiency Directive 2012 (Article 6) sets out requirements for central governments( core departments and executive agencies that are legally part of their structure) to buy highly energy-efficient products, services and buildings from 5 June 2014.