Ecoveritas finds UK businesses unprepared for EPR but stresses challenge not impossible
06 Mar 2023 --- Ecoveritas has published the results of a UK survey on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which show that the vast majority of businesses view their packaging data collection capability as a “work in progress,” despite the regulation coming into force next year.
The news comes as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reinforced that EPR is still on track to be delivered in 2024. The department added that it will remain in talks with producers as the scheme’s final design and delivery plans are developed.
The environmental compliance data experts at Ecoveritas found that a staggering 86% of respondents are yet to establish their data collection processes fully, despite the strengthening of a statutory instrument, titled Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) (England) Regulations 2023, which mandates obligated producers in England to collect and report data on the amount and type of packaging placed on the market from this month.
We speak to Sandy Dhesi, commercial manager at Ecoveritas, about the survey findings, why UK businesses continue to face challenges in establishing EPR and why the complex requirements should not discourage them.
Time to act is now
EPR is complex, multi-dimensional and continuously evolving, highlights Dhesi. “So, it is not surprising that many companies face challenges in understanding EPR, its potential impact on their business and how best to integrate EPR with existing business needs,” she tells PackagingInsights.
“EPR is not going away and the time to deal responsibly and effectively with EPR risk is now. This is especially true as investors are increasingly ready to commit to companies that take Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) seriously. Most companies now recognize that ESG metrics are linked to performance, not just compliance.”
Last week, the British Retail Consortium said that the EPR and Deposit Return Schemes combined would “add around £4 billion (US$4.3 billion) in costs to retailers,” which it warned will be passed down the line.
With growing concerns around inflationary pressures, 85.7% of respondents to the Ecoveritas survey are concerned about the financial implications for their businesses.
Getting EPR reporting right
Dhesi asserts that for companies to get EPR reporting right, they need to determine the following criteria:
- Where to get the data necessary to measure (and report upon)?
- How to understand, analyze and respond to the regulatory framework?
- How to establish the cost impact?
- How to separate legal risk from environmental intent (the company’s plans to become good in terms of EPR measurement)?
To accomplish these goals, most companies need to build their EPR mastery – the right people, solutions and processes at the right level of influence within the organization.
“A key first step is getting the EPR data house in order, with good sources and the technology needed to collect, organize and analyze the data. To keep up with regulatory trends, EPR reporting should become more granular, more consistent and accurate,” she says.
Facing data challenges
Furthermore, chief strategy officer at Fidelity International, Andrew McCaffery adds that businesses need a modern and flexible range of partners who can support and advise them on their EPR journeys.
“Needs can change over time, but those core processes of bringing things together to make better decisions will always be important,” he asserts.
Many businesses face big data challenges when understanding their compliance obligations for a geographic region. “While some countries request no or limited data and financial contributions relating to EPR, others often require detailed data submissions. This means if you don’t have the necessary data, or it is not precise enough, there could be large cost implications at stake,” warns McCaffery.
“It’s fair to say that preparedness is significantly lacking for many reasons. However, the direction of travel is clear, despite not reaching a full understanding and consensus. We advise engaging with peers, suppliers, trade associations and organizations such as ours to ensure you hold live and accurate packaging specifications,” he adds.
Little government communication
After Ecoveritas canvassed the sector’s opinion on EPR for packaging last month, 42.9% of respondents rated themselves as unprepared but aware of the changes regarding their general preparedness for the upcoming reforms and 14.3% of those responding admitted to being unprepared.
Meanwhile, 85.7% of businesses rated the government’s communication quality around the legislative changes to packaging regulations between one and two, on a sliding scale of 1-10, where one is poor and ten excellent. All respondents rated this communication quality lower than four.
Furthermore, almost three in ten businesses told Ecoveritas they don’t currently collect data on packaging waste. Some 28.6% resource it internally and the same proportion resource it internally using external systems, with the remainder completely outsourcing the additional obligations.
Regarding preparations for 2024, over half of the businesses surveyed have yet to make plans, with the remainder internally resourced, 14.3% of which will rely on external software or systems.
“[The EPR requirements] are complex but companies should not be put off by the magnitude of the task. Getting EPR reporting right is a matter of starting, learning, building and improving. It cannot and should not be done all at once,” concludes Dhesi.
By Natalie Schwertheim
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