Quality labelling: a weapon to direct our consumption patterns towards circularity
Society and businesses are starting to realise that the resources, needed for making commercial products, are not infinite. The value of resources is still being addressed as a ‘take-make-waste’ focus, which is also a synonym for a ‘linear economy’. Powerful to establish a circular economy in the EU, the transition must be enhanced in each different product market. Meaning no industries or products can be left behind in the transition process. A non-environmental consumer pattern must therefore be phased out as the “normal” way of consuming goods and products.
On that basis, shifting consumption patterns is challenging and differs depending on industry and type of product. The re-use of second-hand products such as clothes continues to increase in popularity throughout the European countries. When it comes to textiles and clothing as second-hand products, it is arguably easier for consumers to recognise their profitable usage compared to other products. The recognition of the value of the product is in direct contact of firsthand experience. Ensuring the quality of circular products of other industries is essential and product market is in need of a quality labelling. The quality labelling can be used as a tool for consumers to not only guarantee that purchased products are well-functioning, but also that they meet the requirements for being manufactured within a circularity framework. (Hristova, 2019)
The resale market regarding clothing can therefore be seen as a worthy alternative and competitive threat to other consumer goods. However, there must be an awareness of respect regarding the different transitional stages for each industry and product. Our economies is still strongly rooted in the linear economic system, meaning that the production and consumption patterns still favour the linear model. In order to convince and foster upcoming production shifts, the transition relies on successful predecessors to lead the way. With powerful disruptive trends, we will hopefully shape the future economic system.
Looking at a separate market, is the concern of ICT (information and communications technology) products. Recycled ICT products have yet not been profitable enough in order to be established as a worthy alternative for shifting the consumer pattern. In 2018 researchers Gåvertsson et al. from Lund university, concluded that extending ICT products’ lifetime with re-use operation will play a key role in the transition process towards a Europe focused on circularity. But to guarantee a profitable market, a scheme of labelling re-used ICT equipment with a ‘quality label’, could increase the feasibility of shifting the consumer pattern. (Gåvertsson et al, 2018)
Environmental labelling has already been proven to be a successful policy instrument during the last decade. In order to progress the comprehensive labelling scheme and increase its effectiveness, other tools, such as public procurement, can combine the policy instrument. However, the main issue to be addressed is the indication of funding. Industries may not be in a position to pay for a system that requires expensive auditing and technical inputs. ICT products require criteria specifically developed to ensure the quality of label. (Gåvertsson et al, 2018)
The EU plays a pivotal role in initiating support and development of certification regarding enabling the re-use sector position, and increasing its profits. The goal is not to make separate markets or products competing against each other, but to contribute to the overall resource efficiency that is necessary in order to transform the EU into a circular economy.
Hristova, Yuliga. 2019. The Second-Hand Goods Market: Trends and Challenges. University of Economics, Varna. Cheef Assist.Prof.
Gåvertsson, I. – Milios, L. – Dalhammar, C. 2018. Quality Labelling for Re-used ICT Equipment to Support Consumer Choice in the Circular Economy. Journal of Consumer Policy, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Lund University.