Fees for UK SMEs applying for an EU Ecolabel on products and services have been significantly reduced, while new criteria applies to footwear, furniture and computer manufacturers.
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label used to identify products that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to production, use and disposal.
It is recognised throughout Europe, with over 44,000 products using the label to date.
New changes to the scheme in the UK mean that application fees are as much as 42 per cent lower for small businesses, while large companies will have to pay around 25 per cent more.
From 1 August 2016, the standard application fee for SMEs is £500 (formerly £750), while the fee for micro-businesses with fewer than ten employees is £290 (formerly £500).
There is also a further 15 per cent discount for businesses with ISO 14001 certification, or a 30 per cent discount for those certified to the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
The annual license fees for the scheme remain unchanged and range from £250 to £1,000, depending on company size.
According to EU environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, the EU Ecolabel “promotes Europe’s transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption.
“The Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources”, he added.
As part of new Europe-wide changes, footwear, furniture and computer manufacturers will now have to comply with additional new criteria to qualify for an Ecolabel, covering recyclability, repairability and labour conditions.
Computer firms will now need to consider energy efficiency and device upgradability during the design and manufacturing process, along with ease of disassembly for recovery and recycling.
Meanwhile, furniture manufacturers will need to undertake a more comprehensive lifecycle assessment of products and focus more on product durability and repairability.
Footwear manufacturers will have to comply with stricter labour conditions in factories.
While the long-term future of the EU Ecolabel in the UK is unclear following the European referendum result, the government has stated that the scheme will run as normal for the foreseeable future.