The European Commission released in December 2015 the new version of the circular economy package. Its aim is to help the European economy move from linear to circular, more resource-efficient patterns, by ensuring that less resources are extracted from our natural environment and less waste is produced at the end of the product lifecycle. The package focuses on better design of products, improved waste management and recycling performance of EU Member States and the growth and job creation potential of the circular economy. It includes an Action Plan with a specific timeline up until 2017 on production aspects as well as a series of modifications to the waste legislation.
How could the Digital Single Market benefit european consumers? This year's theme was a wide-ranging subject covering issues affecting consumers today in a very tangible way. The Committee has recently issued several Opinions and studies covering the digital transformation and how it impacts modes of production and consumption, and its work feeded into the discussions on many relevant topics, such as data sharing, digital inclusion and access to internet for all, artifical intelligence, digital contract rights, unnecessary geo-blocking, digital currencies and fintech, the sharing economy and the Collaborative economy.
The EESC has received a request from the incoming Dutch EU Presidency for an exploratory opinion on how to achieve more sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental, economic and social impact of unsustainable food chains. Globally, about one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Food is also one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures. The hearing will represent an opportunity to hear from experts and stakeholders about their views and initiatives for a transition to more sustainable food systems in Europe. The discussion will take a holistic and systemic approach by considering the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability and the importance of cross-sectoral co-operation across the food supply chain.
Triggering radical change in the way we buy, exchange or even value goods and services, the collaborative economy, the functional economy and the circular economy have had a considerable impact on businesses, consumers and workers. In its 2016 opinions on all three economic models, the EESC has recognised both the potential of these new models for Europe's sustainability as well as the uncharted legal territory they bring with them. Taking our work to the next level, we have joined forces with the Global Hub for the Common Good, to enrich the European debate with input from communities directly involved in these new economies.
With a view to taking stock of the Action Plan's implementation, looking at next steps and discussing the goals and practicalities of a European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, the EESC and the European Commission co-organised a conference which took place on 9-10 March in Brussels.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is currently preparing an own initiative opinion on "The impact of the conclusions of COP21 on European transport policy". A hearing was organized in order to gather relevant views on this issue and shape concrete proposals to inform the EESC's forthcoming opinion.
The functional economy focuses on the use of a product rather than its ownership. Specifically, with the functional economy model, a company sells the right to use a product of which it maintains ownership. The famous example is Michelin, which no longer sells tires for fleets of company cars, but supplies "mobility services" consisting of repairing, retreading and in some cases exchanging tires. The economic outcome is that the company has an interest in making its products last as long as possible because the price is based on usage (in this case, the number of kilometres driven) and thus in reducing waste.
This study is based on a simulated shopping tool combined with an on-line questionnaire. 2 917 people took part across four European regions: France, Spain, the Czech Republic and the Benelux countries. The results clearly demonstrate that displaying the lifespan of the products for sale led consumers to change their behaviour when making their purchases. This effect was evident regardless of how the lifespan was displayed.