Marking the first annual EU Organic Day, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said today:
“We have seen consumers increasingly choosing organic foods over the past 20 years and this trend continues, with a double digit annual growth in the sales of organic products. Retailers and wholesalers have been active in promoting organic, both in fresh produce and in their own brands. They have worked to forge close long-term supply relationships with farmers, including helping them to make the transition to organic. They have also helped make this economically attractive by providing a market for increased volumes.
We see this as an important element in building sustainable food systems. We are therefore pleased to see Commissioner Wojciechowski’s initiative in launching the EU Organic Day today as the UN general assembly discusses sustainable food. The EU Organic Day will, we hope, each year help the growth of successful organic production in Europe, and underline the other prerequisite for success in doing so: further building consumer demand for and appreciation of the benefits of, organically produced food.”
EuroCommerce and its members have shown their commitment to sustainable food, being both closely involved in the drafting of the EU Code of Conduct and one of its first signatories when it was launched in July. We have also shown how our sector has been proactive in adopting best practice in sustainability and promoting healthy lifestyles in our dedicated website #sustainablecommerce.
Ecommerce Europe and EuroCommerce today jointly published the 2021 European E-commerce Report. In 2020, total European e-commerce grew to €757 billion euros, up 10% from €690 billion euros in 2019.
2020 was an exceptional year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent important role of e-commerce for both society and economy. This is also reflected in the growth figures, which remained significant (10%), but dropped slightly compared to 2019 (14%). COVID-19 gave a significant boost to e-commerce sales, but the sharp decline of online sales in the tourism and services sector (events, tickets, etc.) contributed to holding back overall growth.
The pandemic had a massive impact on developments in the retail sector. The lockdown accelerated the existing trend towards the digital and green transition of stores. Their investments in digital and omnichannel, which were originally planned over several years, were carried out in just a few months. E-commerce was a lifeline for consumers, as government restrictions such as forced shop closures, prevented them from buying what they needed in stores. While e-commerce has not fully compensated the losses that many brick-and-mortar SMEs experienced, it has absorbed a large part of the economic shock. However, further work is needed to ensure the wider retail sector can optimally benefit from the solutions offered by the digital transformation.
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In the latest of the series of EuroCommerce Policy Talks, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski is speaking today on his vision for the future of European agriculture, and addressing a range of issues related to it. These include the impact of the COVID crisis on agriculture, sustainable food systems and the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy, food waste and food security, farmers’ income and regulation in the food supply chain, and the global and trade aspects of agriculture.
EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“As world leaders gather this week in New York to discuss sustainable food systems, we are very pleased to welcome Commissioner Wojciechowski to our Policy Talk on sustainable agriculture. As a vital link with consumers in the food supply chain, retailers and wholesalers have been very active in supporting the Farm-to-Fork objectives and addressing the accelerating transition to sustainability across the supply chain. They have been working with suppliers both of branded goods and our retailer brands to respond to and encourage consumer demand for sustainable food options and a healthy lifestyle, as well as reducing the environmental impact of their own business. Although retailers buy very little directly from farmers – less than 5% of what they sell – they have a shared interest in a globally competitive agriculture sector which prospers and successfully embraces this transition. This needs a regulatory regime which supports dialogue and cooperation rather than national protectionism or inappropriate legislation from which neither farmers nor consumers benefit”.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren is speaking at the World Retail Congress conference in London today, and said
“COVID is a global pandemic and its impact is global, particularly for a people-facing sector such as retail. We have heard from many of our members in Europe that a worrying number of shops will not stay open once current support measures end. This is in part the result of repeated and unpredictable government lockdowns over the last 18 months, but also a symptom of the acceleration by the pandemic of the fundamental transformation of the sector to digital and online sales. Retailers small and large, suffering from historically low margins, need urgent government support to make the investment necessary for digitalisation and sustainability. This is an economic and social imperative needing decisive action not only for our sector but all the other parts of the economy and the local communities we serve.”
He is speaking to OECD G20 and G7 sherpa Nicolas Pinaud, and in a panel with Matt Shay, President and CEO of the US National Retail Federation, and Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, on issues surrounding the measures needed to maintain the signs of positive recovery in recent months, in part due to government support.
EuroCommerce Narrative on Retail and Wholesale in a changing world…
The world is changing rapidly. Retailers and wholesalers have repeatedly shown how resilient and adaptive they are, and are moving ahead with embracing this change, providing value to customers, suppliers, and society at large. This great story is worth telling – both to the sector and to the wider world. And the story needs to say clearly what we want from the EU and from national governments to make our sector sustainably competitive.
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The European Parliament agriculture and environment committees are today finalising their joint report on the Farm to Fork strategy. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented:
“Our sector has for many years driven sustainable practices, working with suppliers, for example on organic production and other quality standards, and creating a market for farmers and expanding choice for consumers. I am therefore happy to restate today our readiness to contribute to sustainable food systems under the Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy. The Covid crisis has shown that retail and wholesale is an essential sector, ensuring efficient distribution of daily essentials to consumers. We also work hard to do so in a sustainable way and in promoting healthy lifestyles. A wide range of actions already initiated by retailers and wholesalers can be seen from our website #sustainablecommerce.”
In a consumer survey as part of the joint McKinsey/EuroCommerce report on the State of Grocery Retail released earlier this year, 50% of consumers said that they planned to buy more healthy, local or environmentally-friendly foods this year, but 26% wanted both to save money on groceries and move towards sustainable lifestyles. This is a clear message to retail and wholesale to work with farmers and the whole supply chain to continue to increase the supply of sustainably-produced, affordable food.
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Commenting today on the creation of the new Epic Partners retail alliance, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“This new development demonstrates the important role retail alliances play in supporting competition and providing better prices and more choice to consumers. The efficiencies and synergies in sourcing in the EU single market can help balance the significant market power of multinational brand suppliers who operate across the globe. As we have seen recently, these large manufacturers are again piling on pressure, sometimes even collectively, for unreasonable price increases. Alliances are consumers’ best allies at a time when many families are still feeling the impact of the COVID pandemic. These alliances help address the impact of manufacturers’ active fragmentation of the single market, which is costing consumers at least €14 billion a year.”
The new alliance will negotiate contractual arrangements for complementary international services and marketing activities with the largest international brand manufacturers, with a focus on packaged processed products. Vegetables, fruits and unprocessed foods are not part of these activities, and the alliance will have no dealings with SME suppliers or farmers. The Commission has on numerous occasions recognised the pro-competitive role that retail alliances play within the strict boundaries set in competition rules, including a recent report by the European’s Joint Research Centre which underlined their positive role in increasing consumer welfare.
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Commissioner Reynders has issued the Commission’s second Rule of Law report. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren underlined the importance to Europe’s economy of EU rules and values being observed in all member states:
“All societies rely on the law being applied equally and fairly, and business can only function properly within a predictable and effective legal framework. In removing this cornerstone on which the single market and Europe’s institutions are built, countries are undermining the very basis of the EU. They also – short-sightedly - hamper the ability of businesses such as retail and wholesale to invest, create jobs and operate to serve consumers. This is why we strongly support Commissioner Reynders in ensuring that Europe and its citizens can expect all counties to respect the rules-based system which the EU has established, and call upon the Commission to take the action urgently needed to enforce those rules.”
Our sector has felt directly the harmful effects of lack of respect of the rule of law, particularly, but not exclusively, in Central and Eastern Europe. Retailers and wholesalers in these countries face arbitrary administrative and legislative action, often by decree sidestepping normal parliamentary procedures, with no proper access to national decision-makers and often judicial systems unable to function efficiently and independently to provide proper redress.
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Retailers and wholesalers across Europe are already working hard to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Our sector has been active for many years in seeking to reduce its impact on the environment, promoting sustainability in its supply chain, its own operations, and with customers. We therefore support the Commission’s Fit for 55 package as a concrete set of measures to meet the Green Deal target of a 55% reduction in EU emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030. We share, however, other sectors’ concerns that the carbon border adjustment mechanism should be designed to be compatible with WTO rules and avoid new areas of dispute with trading partners.”
Retailers and wholesalers have shown that they take sustainability and climate change seriously, setting clear and measurable targets to reduce the impact of their operations and the products they sell. Our companies have also been proactive in setting clear targets for becoming carbon neutral, and in the transition to sustainable transport and increased energy efficiency. They are installing new refrigeration equipment, charging stations in their supermarket car parks, and using more renewable energy. They are continuously improving the environmental performance and driving eco-design of their products.
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EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren, Independent Retail Europe Director-General Else Groen and Euro Coop Secretary-General Todor Ivanov announced today that they had signed the EU Code of Conduct under the Farm to Fork Strategy, and issued the following joint statement:
“We are happy to have signed today an EU Code of Conduct which covers objectives our sector has long committed to and is actively pursuing. Our signatures and the commitments of our member associations and companies reflect our support of the transition to sustainable food systems, recognising and building on the many initiatives our sector already has in place. It also signals our commitment under this code to further engagement and continued dialogue with other actors in the supply chain.
Such dialogue will be important in contributing to the code’s objectives – no one part of the supply chain can do so alone, and we supported the Commission’s inclusive approach in involving all interested stakeholders across the supply chain. We all want to see consumers benefit from more access to sustainably-produced food and make the healthy choice. We will promote the code and share good practice, and we call upon the Commission to facilitate the dialogue foreseen in the code.
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Speaking on the launch today of proposed revision of the General Product Safety Directive, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We wholeheartedly support updating the Product Safety Directive. This is long overdue: since it was first adopted 20 years ago, the market has changed dramatically, in particular due to digitalisation. This has further been accelerated by COVID, and we need rules which can address the many new ways in which products are bought and sold. The influx of products bought online from traders outside the EU which do not meet EU standards is one of these changes which needs effective action”.
Consumer demand is driving innovation in retail, and our sector is responding with a diverse range of digital and omnichannel options to suit individual consumers’ needs and expectations. We need EU policy and regulation to reflect these trends, and retailers need a coherent framework that:
• ensures a high level of consumer trust that the products they buy are safe;
• balances responsibilities for all market players depending on their place in the supply chain, while ensuring their proportionality;
• provides for harmonised and clear risk assessment rules for effective enforcement and recall of dangerous products;
• creates a level playing field for all businesses selling to EU consumers - whether they are established in the EU or outside;
• uses to the full the possibilities of digital technology in alerting the public to risks;
• works hand in hand, and does not overlap with the rules on platform liability under the Digital Services Act.
Commissioner McGuinness talks to retailers and wholesalers on financial services, investment and recoveryRead more
European Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness is speaking today in the latest of EuroCommerce’s series of Policy Talks on “Finance and Regulation – Driving recovery and investment.
In the talk, Commissioner McGuinness will be covering a range of subjects, including how green finance can drive a sustainable recovery in Europe, proposals on how this is defined, and companies can work to reinforce their efforts to encourage sustainability and basic rights in their supply chains in third countries.
She will also explain Commission thinking on ensuring that EU investors have access to protection across the EU, and share her thoughts on some of the issues surrounding card payments, including the introduction of strong customer authentication. She will also be answering a wide range of questions submitted by the audience.
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We, the coalition of European business associations representing different European sectors call for the swift ratification of the EU-Mercosur association agreement. With the political agreement reached already 2 years ago (June 2019), now is the time to move forward and unlock the manifold mutual benefits that this agreement will deliver.
The EU-Mercosur agreement:
is the largest and most ambitious trade agreement ever negotiated by both sides, provides regulatory certainty for both trade in goods and services, and establishes better trade links between countries of respectively 440 and 260 million citizens. The agreement will unlock growth and help both regions to recover from the current economic and public health crisis, invest in the green transition and diversify global supply chains and our core market base.
- includes the most advanced sustainable development provisions that will foster partnership, help mitigate climate change and bind both sides to effectively implement the Paris Agreement. Unilateral legislative initiatives at EU level, such as upcoming initiative on deforestation and the review of existing rules on timber trade and fight against illegal logging will enhance this cooperation and effectively ensure that exports to the EU will not contribute to deforestation or soil degradation.
- includes enforceable commitments on workers' rights and environmental protection through a dedicated dispute settlement mechanism that includes an active role for civil society organisations and calls on the expertise of international bodies, whose reports and recommendations must be made public. In case of non- respect of any of these provisions an automatic mechanism will trigger formal government consultations.
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EuroCommerce has adopted a forward-looking and pragmatic position on the Digital Services Act (DSA), calling upon the EU institutions to ensure that the DSA creates a safe and trustworthy digital environment for consumers. At the same time, the DSA needs to strike the right balance: ensuring products online are compliant and safe, while not unnecessarily overburdening businesses. EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“The European retail and wholesale sector is in the middle of a digital transformation which is fundamentally changing retail and wholesale business models, a trend significantly accelerated by the COVID19 pandemic. An increasing number are, or plan to become, platforms themselves, increasing competition between the different online business models. While policy makers are still talking about online and offline sales, the most successful businesses are seamlessly integrating the online and offline environment into omnichannel, matching consumers expectations and preferences.”
One of the main challenges our sector is facing is the lack of a level playing field with third country traders. They often offer non-compliant products to EU consumers, offered for very low prices, making it difficult for European retailers and wholesalers to compete with them.
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EuroCommerce is pleased to announce the election at its General Assembly today of Juan Manuel Morales as its new President. Mr. Morales will take up his three-year mandate from 1 July 2021.
Mr. Morales commented upon his election:
“I will want to focus on guiding an important organisation representing the Europe’s largest private sector employer, a driver of growth for a wide range of other ecosystems, and a linchpin of local communities. We are under massive competitive and regulatory pressure in a low margin sector, which is often overlooked by policymakers. This is something we must, and will work to change. I am proud therefore, and deeply honoured, to have been elected to continue and take forward the valuable work undertaken by EuroCommerce members and staff, and, above all, by my excellent predecessor Régis Degelcke, to whom I extend my heartfelt thanks”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone in retail and wholesale, particularly in non-food. The very existence of thousands of SMEs, who represent 99% of our sector, is at risk. In addition, retail and wholesale face the dual challenge of the digital and green transformation, both of which require significant investment.”
In handing over the baton as President, Régis Degelcke added:
“I believe EuroCommerce has built up further its reputation as a strong organisation representing an essential ecosystem for the European economy and a provider of a vital service every day to the people who really matter – Europe’s 450 million consumers. It has worked hard to underline how our sector has faced the challenges of the last 18 months, and to get across important messages about its needs, both financial and policy. All of us are looking forward to working under Juan Manuel’s leadership, whose ambition for, and commitment to the industry will help EuroCommerce reach even greater heights.”