Policy

Encouraging businesses to manage their impact on the environment

Issue

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.

Actions

Encouraging resource efficiency and environmental management

We’re helping businesses use resources more efficiently and manage their environmental impacts by:

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:

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:

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:

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

We’re also negotiating product specific regulations under the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives.

Defra co-ordinates work in the UK on the 10-Year Framework Programme (10YFP) for international work on sustainable consumption and production.

Background

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 also work closely with the Technology Strategy Board and Knowledge Transfer Networks to deliver policies on resource efficiency, products and innovation.

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

The Environment Agency help businesses and other organisations to become resource efficient through their work in the following areas:

  • regulating the environmental performance of large industrial installations under the Industrial Emissions Directive, including their usage of raw materials, water and energy and their waste production
  • helping companies to see waste as a resource and divert it away from landfill, encouraging reuse and recycling
  • supporting low-carbon technologies and administering a number of statutory schemes aimed at reducing carbon emissions
  • managing water resources for homes, industry, agriculture and for the environment

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.

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