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

5. Conclusions and recommendations

Statistical classifications generally follow relevant policy and societal trends. There are therefore opportunities to add statistical codes for bio-based products and materials to statistical classifications. The bio-based economy is a cross-cutting topic that is relevant for many materials and products. While it would be valuable to have all relevant products split into bio-based and non-bio-based versions, this does not seem realistic as the volumes of some bio-based products are small and the governing bodies aim to keep the number of codes in classifications relatively stable. A strong case needs to be made for why specific codes need to be added. Introducing new codes to classifications can be a lengthy, iterative process in which many stakeholders are involved. Therefore, this sections provides advice for those who seek to propose new codes to increase the chance of proposals being accepted.

This report examined specifically the NACE, CN and PRODCOM classifications. These classifications are used in different contexts. To identify the most suitable classification for a bio-based product or material, several questions should be asked: at what level is the bio-based product or material under consideration already relevant? Is it a product or a whole new production process and industry? Is it primarily imported or also made within the EU?

  • New production process/industry with relevant financial volumes: NACE classification (revised every 15 years).
  • Goods primarily imported with relevant financial volumes: CN classification (revised annually).
  • Goods produced in relevant quantities in the EU: PRODCOM list (revised roughly every two years).

The following recommendations aim to aid proposers in selecting relevant products, writing clear proposals and increasing the likelihood of acceptance by involving affected stakeholders early on in the process.

For which products and materials should codes be proposed?

  • Propose new codes for bio-based products and materials that are already in circulation on a large scale (volume and financial value).
  • Codes that exist in one classification are easier to implement in another. An example is proposing a new PRODCOM code that matches an already existing CN code. Using the existing definition can speed up the process of approval as the code was already approved once and was meanwhile tested in practice.
  • Only propose codes for products/ materials with small volumes if these are of extremely high societal or policy importance and/or rapidly growing in volume. Otherwise consider proposing these codes once they have reached a relevant volume.

What should be considered in the phrasing of proposals?

  • Check whether related codes already exist in other classifications as existing definitions could simply be adopted. This also ensures consistency among classifications.
  • Highlight the societal/policy relevance of the proposed codes avoiding complicated jargon.
  • Clearly define the new codes and how they differ from existing codes. This is especially relevant as these codes might be used for future policy to stimulate the bio-based economy, such as reduced taxes or import duties on relevant goods.

Achieving acceptance of proposals?

Proposals that demonstrate that the codes can be implementable in practice  are more likely to be accepted. Thus, it is beneficial to consult and lobby relevant stakeholders while writing. Stakeholders can be European Commission DGs, other Member States or industry associations. For example, some codes might be difficult for smaller Member States to check or companies might be unable to report on them. Involving stakeholders while writing the proposal can help get them on board and ensure that the proposed codes can actually be reported on and checked in practice.