8.7 Final remarks

Integrated Product Policy

The IPP is not going to be an easy policy to implement for policy makers, and neither it is going to be cheap for business. The potential benefits, in terms of improved environmental health and consequent increase in welfare, as well as economic development, depend on how thoughtfully and responsibly it is imple­mented. Major changes still need to be made, so that the IPP conforms with the theories of ecological economics and industrial ecology, and so that it can bring about the most significant results. However, these results will not be immediate, either, as dealing with product systems requires time during which changes can be adopted by all stakeholders, throughout the product life-cycle.

Although, in its current shape, the IPP meets most of the basic criteria for a good policy, it encounters more problems with the criteria for an environmental policy and it fails to meet the most important one – the adoption of a fully integ­rated, systems perspective. For this reason, it cannot appropriately address the complexity of economy-environment interactions and it also fails to provoke a shift of paradigms. Consequently, it can engender only incremental rather than radical innovation. In this case, the IPP risks remaining just a tool for the harmonization of national legal systems, to facilitate free trade of ‘greener’ goods and services within the EU single market. Obviously, it will contribute to this goal, but if it were to conform to the theory of ecological economics and industrial ecology, its impact would be much more significant (in terms of shaping economy-environment interactions and also improving the competitive­ness of the EU market).

Adopting a fully integrated, systems approach, combined with the long-term perspective characteristic of ecological economics and industrial ecology, should constitute the most elementary foundation of any decision-making process, especially one that deals with economy-environment interactions. This can make decisions more ‘reasonable’, from the point of view of sustainability understood as resilience, efficiency and adaptive capacity of the systems to which those decisions refer. Addressing the comments from other EU institu­tions, especially those of the European Parliament (2004) should constitute the first step towards improving the IPP in the direction of ecological economics and industrial ecology. This book can serve as a source of further guidance, both for the IPP and for other product-oriented environmental policies.