In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of food production and consumption. At the request of the Dutch EU Presidency, the EESC is preparing an exploratory opinion on how to achieve sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. The opinion takes a holistic and comprehensive approach, looking at the interdependence of food production and consumption as well as fostering inter-sectoral cooperation.
The opinion familiarizes the public with the phenomenon of collaborative consumption (CC). The document presents the conceptual approach and describes briefly best practices in CC. The EESC proposes also a general strategy for the sound development of CC in the EU. Given that CC covers mostly bottom-up initiatives, studies are needed before the appropriate regulations, rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved can be established.
Planned obsolescence is associated with a form of industrial production that relies on a minimum renewal rate for its products. Although product renewal is necessary, certain abuses need to be addressed. The EESC would like to see a total ban on products with built-in defects designed to end the product's life.
Over-indebtedness has grown with the financial crisis, the rising cost of living and use of cash credit. However, it has not been properly addressed at EU level. The EESC wants that an appropriate uniform procedure is put in place including verification of claims, a European framework for usury or preventive measures.
The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits.
Globally, the volume of trade in the sharing economy is estimated at around EUR 17.8 billion, with rapid annual growth forecast until 2025. In response to a request from the Dutch presidency, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has issued an opinion on the sharing economy and self-regulation which calls on the EU to “urgently define a clear and transparent legal framework within which these activities should be developed and implemented in the European area”.
Transition to a circular economy is a must if we are to protect our planet, but also if we are to increase the competitiveness of European industry. This is a long-term process that will require numerous initiatives at European, national and regional level. Companies see the circular economy as an opportunity. "Going green" is beneficial not only for the environment, but also for businesses, providing real savings in terms of raw materials, water and energy. Apart from its environmental and economic benefits, the circular economy also has social advantages, providing new jobs and new business models.