Extended Producer Responsibility is our ‘green shot’

Extended Producer Responsibility is our ‘green shot’

By Andrew McCaffery, Global EPR Director

This is our moment to take the necessary climate action to truly make a difference for our planet.

2023 must be a banner year for policy action in the UK. From building electrification and decarbonisation to Extended Producer Responsibility, 2023 must be the tipping point.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the United States spent the current dollar equivalent of just under $300 billion on “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth” as President John F Kennedy proposed in 1961. Ever since, that combination of aspiration and expenditure has made us call any well-financed goal that seems improbable, if not impossible, a “moonshot”.

This is our moment. This is our green shot.

The intersection of investment and innovation means we can move past the old either-or thinking that has held us back for too long. The new reality is that we can have thriving businesses and good jobs without sacrificing the planet.

READ MORE: A handy guide to all things Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Find out what you need to know, including why it’s important, whether it applies to you, timelines, what to do and much more.

Getting to the moon led to everything from the silicon chip to enhanced food safety, space blankets, quake-proofing and everything in between.

Our green shot can have the same effect.

Fast-paced overconsumption is the core issue of climate change.

While we may struggle to slow it down, the remedy lies in how far we can jump from overconsumption and a GDP-driven economy to a circular economy and embrace wellbeing as the main economic indicator.

As affluence grows globally, people spend more. Money spent is roughly equivalent to carbon pollution and climate change.

So, can the urge to splurge be brought under control? Or is it terminal?

Is excessive consumption an inherent feature of human psychology, or is it the product of modern prosperity? And are we doomed to perpetuate this pattern of excessive consumption to its logical end? Will we shop until an increasingly hostile earth becomes uninhabitable? Or can we short-circuit the urge to comply with the social pressure that motivates our consumption?

Solutions to date have mainly focused on recycling and lightweighting packaging, which – while helpful – still align with a linear rather than a circular economy.

So many environmental problems that we see in the world are design problems. It’s not just the product’s design – there are also system design flaws. Often, the front end of the supply chain and the back end are not connected.

Packaging needs to be considered less of a product and more of a service. This means building better reuse-and-refill models into the system that can serve consumers better, create efficiencies for supply chains, and deliver lower costs for businesses.

What we’re essentially dealing with now is the product of 50-60 years of supply chain optimisation around a linear economy, and the inertia of that system is very strong. To overcome this, we will need a lot of different things – incentives, design support, infrastructure and public-private partnerships.

Deposit return schemes and Extended Producer Responsibility policies should be important tools for building out reuse and refill infrastructure. With EPR, a portion of producer fees could be earmarked for reuse. ,

Organisations can gain faster near-term value from bringing back existing products and reusing them for innovations that help achieve net-zero and net-neutral goals across the supply chain.

‘Neutrality’, or ‘do no further harm’, is increasingly seen as an insufficient ambition in light of natural capital losses and climate tipping points, which threaten billions’ health, security, and livelihoods. Customers and employees now demand demonstratable impact.

Calls for environmental justice and a just transition underscore the reality that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) can no longer be treated as silos.

Long before and after they touch our lives, products have a direct and indirect impact on the environment. Just reporting carbon emissions won’t make industries like farming, construction, energy and automotive sustainable. Remanufacturing will tighten and shorten the loop between first-time product usage and reuse, reducing waste, increasing profits, and powering the circular economy.

To what extent is the company committed to an ambitious mission of creating a positive impact rather than just reducing a negative footprint over time? To what extent do they see and acknowledge the whole picture of the complex system? And to what extent are they focussing on the root causes of waste and pollution?

These are common questions to which we can help you find answers. Or, at the very least, help you arrive at the best outcome.

Sustainability is not a matter of yes or no to a specific material choice, certificate or off-setting strategy. At Ecoveritas we work with sustainability as a mindset that embraces the world in all its complexity and gradient colours.

We’re often told to think outside the box; the solution to our problems is far away in deep thought and concepts.

Sometimes, the solution is staring us right in the face.

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