On 20-22 May 2015 the 18th edition of the European Forum on Eco-Innovation took place in Barcelona, Spain. The glorious “Green” Forum outside the Brussels city walls was jointly organised by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the Generalitat de Catalunya with the support of the Club EMAS Catalunya and the Environment Sector Group of the Enterprise Europe Network.
The European Sting was the only Brussels-based EU Media to be media partner of the Forum and simultaneously travelled to Barcelona to cover it live.
The Green Forum
Various interesting green topics were presented to the specialists from all around Europe in Barcelona:
- the landscape of existing environmental schemes and their value in enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs;
- examples of successful environmental labelling, management and information initiatives;
- how we reconcile credibility of labels with the need to differentiate products;
- the role of public authorities in this area; and
- partnerships between retailers and suppliers that help consumers choose “green” products.
Numerous top level stakeholders of the dialogue for a cleaner European Environment shared with the public their “green” views in Barcelona. Among them, Mr Kestutis Sadauskas, Director Green Economy of the European Commission, Mr Antii Ilmari Peltomaki, Deputy Director-General of the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Directorate General of the European Commission, Mrs MajBritt Larka, deputy Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Spain and last but not least, Mr Andrew Prag, Policy Analyst of OECD.
As a major highlight of the 18th Eco-Innovation Forum one should give credit to the original and innovative organisation of the numerous sessions. This is thanks to the excellent presenter and moderator of the Forum, the interactive character placing all the participants in large round tables rather than being seated amphitheatrically listening passively to the sessions and also to the insightful content in some presentations.
After every session the participants were asked to take stock of the session’s input by forming discussion groups and interacting while seated in round tables. It is very positive to notice that the Commission is investing both on the content of this kind of Forums and on the necessary interaction and opinion sharing between the participants.
Major “Green” takeaways
The takeaways of the two day Forum are plenty and worth referring to. One of the common points of agreement in various sessions and between the majority of the participants was the excessive number of environmental Eco-labels on products. The EU Market is flooded today by several Eco-Labeling rules.
Inescapably and consequently the European consumer is confused. Kestutis Sadauskas, Director Green Economy of the European Commission, stressed the importance of one label system in the EU, avoiding over-regulation that would be confusing both for the consumer and the companies/retailers.
Further, Mr Andrew Prag from OECD interestingly showed during his presentation that according to OECD’s research there are more than 500 labelling schemes to describe the environmental friendliness of the products that we find today in the supermarkets’ shelves.
Moreover, the OECD executive made the distinction between Eco-labels and ISO labels. It is usual that companies keep making constantly new Eco-labels to differentiate themselves from the competition. Mr Prag also agreed that the big number and the overlapping of the existing Eco-labels is very confusing for the European consumer.
Eco-labels for better SMEs
In addition, a very important topic of the discussion in Barcelona was how exactly the Eco-labels are able to help the SMEs, the heart of the European economy, to grow and innovate. First of all, the use of Eco-labels is endorsing growth to European SMEs by cutting down substantial costs. Second, Eco-labels naturally give a competitive advantage to the products of the SME.
Then, Eco-labels can be widely used as a marketing tool that is useful for SMEs to export. Eco-labels, according to the major speakers of the 18th Eco-Innovation Forum 2015 are able to expand customer demand and increase consumers’ confidence towards the brand. Last, Eco-labels certify a credible and sustainable business that complies with Green regulation.
Juncker’s Green Commission
Finally, Mr Antti Ilmari Peltomaki, Deputy Director-General of the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Directorate General of the European Commission, stressed how Green policies are a priority for the current European Commission. “After 5 years of economic downturn”, he stated, Juncker’s Commission is now certainly giving priority to sustainable growth that respects the environment.
Further, the Commission is today looking at “Smart and Clean” options, while they emphasise on the role of the ICT sector to contribute for the new European green policy.
Finally, European plans for energy efficiency in the much awaited “Energy Union”, as Mr Peltomaki revealed in Barcelona, include R&D investments and a comprehensive Circular Economy Package for the EU.
19th Eco-Innovation Forum
All in all, the content of the 18th European Eco-Innovation Forum was positive and would be even more enriched in the future with a more active participation of the European Youth and its action towards a European circular economy. The new generations of Europe should be a major stakeholder in the dialogue for a Greener European and global environment.
The Sting is now looking forward to the 19th Eco-Innovation Forum that will take place in Seoul, South Korea, to see and monitor live from Seoul new trends and evolutions on the matter, as well as setting as benchmark world wide and Asian policies towards Eco-Innovation.