Author: Vivian S. C. Tunn
Adding bio-based products and materials to statistical classifications

1. Introduction

The environmental problems caused by adverse effects of plastics and other materials has increased interest for bio-based materials. In this context, projects such as the EU funded BioMonitor set out to measure and monitor the bio-based economy. In the BioMonitor project, methods are developed to measure the bio-based economy now and in the future. This topic is still emerging and using coefficients to determine the bio-based shares per product category is best method currently available to measure the size of the bio-based economy. However, in order to monitor the development of the bio-based economy these shares need to be updated frequently which is a time-intensive process. These shares are not sufficiently accurate to reliably capture small developments. Hence, in parallel the BioMonitor project investigates how information on bio-based products and materials can be captured through statistical classifications. This requires adding new codes for bio-based products and materials to existing classifications. The aim of this report is to aid in this process by developing a better understanding the steps, considerations and timeline of changing statistical classifications.

While bio-based products and materials are on the rise, it is still difficult to quantify and monitor the development of the bio-economy. This is because bio-based materials and products are increasingly used to substitute petrochemicals but are not separately captured by statistical classifications. To improve monitoring of the development of the bio-based economy in the future, new statistical codes need to be added to international classifications of goods and industries. The aim of this report is to outline the process of proposing and introducing new codes in statistical classifications. More specifically, it explains the structure of these codes, presents the steps from proposal to introduction and highlights the considerations and institutions involved in this process. It aims to contribute to the drafting of proposals for new classification codes.

The report focuses on three potentially interesting classifications and outlines the process of changing them to accommodate new codes. In doing so, it sets out the responsibilities within and the timeframe of these processes and examines dependencies on and interrelations with other classifications. The first classification for which the process is described is the Combined Nomenclature (CN). CN codes are used to classify goods for customs and international trade. The second classification is PRODCOM, which classifies produced goods and industrial services. And the third classification for which the process is described is the Nomenclature des Activités économiques des Communautés Européennes or NACE. NACE codes are used to classify the industries to which different economic activities belong. The report concludes with recommendations and conclusions for proposing new codes to capture bio-based materials and products statistically in the future. The codes and classifications covered in this report are also connected to or partially derived from other classifications. These dependencies and connections are also outlined as they determine which digits of which classification can be altered by which organisation and how that influences other classifications. Many statistical codes include parts that are defined globally and additional parts that are defined on a European level; the focus of this report is primarily on outlining the classification alteration processes on a European level.

This report distinguishes four steps in the revision processes of the classifications, these steps are used to describe these processes consistently. Each step may consist of several sub-steps. The four steps are:

  1. Initiation of revision and suggestions for changes
  2. Submission of proposed changes
  3. Evaluation of proposals and decision (steps and criteria)
  4. Publication and implementation