Does a product need to be renewable, in order to be sustainable? The forest-based industry’s answer to this question is a clear yes. Whether the European Commission choses to include renewability in the upcoming Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI) remains to be seen.
"Products from renewable sources allow us to keep more fossils in the ground. It is a truism to say that the choice of raw materials matters for sustainability. After all, it makes a difference from which resource a product is made," says Kai-Yee Thim, Director of Products and Product Safety at the Swedish Forest Industries.
Renewability as a sustainability principle
What is sustainable, according to the Commission? In the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), they list sustainability principles which products could be requested to adhere to: recyclability, reusability, durability, repairability and upgradability.
"These are crucial for making better use of our resources, but it matters what we are circulating and extending the sustainability of. Renewability should be included as one of the sustainability principles," says Kai-Yee Thim.
The forest-based industry believes that materials from renewable sources, such as fiber-based packaging, wooden houses or lyocell clothes, should be acknowledged as important building blocks for the circular economy.
Where does the Commission go from here?
The CEAP was presented by the Commission in March 2020. A wide range of measures were proposed to accelerate the transition to a more circular society. One of the goals is that sustainable products become the norm.
The door does not seem to be closed for inserting a renewability principle at a later stage, when the Commission is to define product specificities in delegated acts. This much was clear from at statement recently made by Joaquim Nunes de Almeida, Director at DG GROW, the Commission’s Directorate-General for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SME’s.
"It was definitely a positive signal, but I did not interpret it as a promise. Still, we will hold Mr. de Almeida to it," vows Kai-Yee Thim.