Right to Repair: Balancing the business realities with environmental goals


The circular economy has been given a renewed push at the EU level through various legislative initiatives over the last few months. A key proposal within this framework has been the ‘Right to Repair’ Directive, which aims to promote the repair ahead of replacement of defective goods and strengthens consumer access to repair information and services.

The proposed directive will make it easier for consumers to compare repair service providers and opt for any third-party providers of their preference. Producers must provide third parties access to any spare parts, information, or tools needed to conduct repairs. Producers shall also be obliged to repair certain products when requested to do so by consumers. This includes products such as refrigerators, washing machines, mobile devices, and data storage equipment, to name just a few. Importantly, producers will be obliged to always repair defective goods if repair is cheaper than replacement, regardless of consumer expectations.

The Malta Business Bureau (MBB) supports the general aims of the Right to Repair proposal, as it can help foster more sustainable business practices across the entire value chain which may reduce the carbon footprint and waste generation over the long-term. This would be achieved through reducing demand for replacements and encouraging innovation in the design of more durable and easily repairable products.

Excess waste leads to resource depletion, environmental degradation, high processing costs, and spatial challenges. These issues are compounded in Malta due to the limited land available to process and dispose of waste.

Nonetheless, it must also be acknowledged that the proposed Directive is not without challenges. One of the most significant concerns relates to the quality and safety of products when repaired by independent service providers. Such an approach is already well accepted in practice for products such as mobile devices. However, repairs for other categories of products, such as ones which deal with heat, chemicals and air/water tightness should be treated with more caution.

Repairs in these cases must be conducted in proper conditions and by qualified repairers. Producers should consequently be able to authorise who can repair their products in a safe and reliable manner. It is therefore crucial to differentiate between more easily repairable products and more complex ones which require specialised repair services.

The sharing of certain information needed to conduct repairs will also be complicated when products are covered by patents or other intellectual property rights. Companies must not be required to divulge proprietary information or technical details about their products with third parties where there is a risk of losing trade secrets. The proposed Directive should make direct reference to the protection of such sensitive information to promote continued R&D by companies.

The proposal must also clearly distinguish between business-to-consumer and business-to-business relationships. While its scope is meant to be limited to products purchased by consumers, the proposal at the same time refers to products which are typically used in business activities, such as data storage and server products, refrigeration appliances with a direct sales function, and welding equipment. B2B relationships are often governed by dedicated contractual agreements covering repair needs, which may differ significantly from consumer products.

Another important sticking point will undoubtedly be the obligation on producers to always repair defective goods if repair is cheaper than replacement. Situations such as out-of-stock parts, multiple or repeat defects, and consumer expectations will mean that repair cannot be the solution in call circumstances. Such decisions are not typically based solely on the absolute cost of repair, but also factor in aspects such as the ratio between purchase price and cost of repair, how the replacement is accounted for, the potential better performance of replacement models, customer service and the company’s own reputation.

Notwithstanding these concerns, the Right to Repair directive remains a legitimate proposal with objectives deserving support. With carefully targeted amendments, it has the potential to strike a good balance between environmental protection and the practical considerations faced by businesses. By finding this balance, the EU can ensure that sustainable practices are promoted without adding undue burden.

Gabriel Cassar is the Manager for EU Policy (Sustainability) at the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). The MBB is the EU advisory organization of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

This article was first published in The Malta Independent on Sunday on 16th July 2023.

Fortifying a legacy for the future

Chris Vassallo Cesareo was elected President of The Malta Chamber at the end of March, after serving on its Council for 10 years. Here, he speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about his priorities for the next 2 years, and how he plans to continue bolstering the entity’s 175-year heritage.

In its 175-year  history,  The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has grown to become the backbone of private-public business relations.    Indeed, the organisation has proven instrumental in ensuring that the Maltese corporate community, as well as its strong industrial sectors – manufacturing, retailing and service providers – flourish, weathering the storms determined by the economy.”

In March, businessman Chris Vassallo Cesareo, whose CV includes a 10-year stint on The Malta Chamber’s Council, and an established career as Managing Director at Domestica, one of Malta’s leading furniture establishments, was elected President for a two-year term.

“My background is in the small-to-medium business sector, with Domestica being a second-generation family business, possessing investments in retail, manufacturing and servicing, so I’m very aware and conscious of the challenges and opportunities facing similar businesses working within these economic pillars – which, actually, include most of The Malta Chamber members. The fact that I’ve also been working on the Council, and working closely with the entity’s former presidents, means that I can also follow in their good footsteps,” he smiles.

Indeed, his key priority is to more firmly entrench the deep roots already established by The Malta Chamber, which, Mr Vassallo Cesareo says, is fundamentally dependent on the work of those starting out their careers. “My intended focus is on the future generations of business leaders,” he continues, adding that he’s also the Chairperson of JA Malta Foundation, which provides training and mentorship to entrepreneurial youths. “It’s our responsibility to give a platform and the space to future generations to excel in their respective areas,” he insists.

This is done through the commitment to The Malta Chamber’s five pillars: economic growth and resilience; environmental sustainability; digitalisation and infrastructure; human capital; and good governance. “We champion these foundations, to make sure we continue to leave a legacy,” he says, explaining that integral to these principles is education. “I don’t believe we can afford to separate education from industry. The Malta Chamber can help create the future, bringing educational institutions in touch with local businesses so we open the doors of opportunity, with youths being able to establish a career, and not simply look for a job. We are looking at things holistically, and this is tied to a national vision for the country,” he says.

Good governance will be another of Mr Vassallo Cesareo’s core priorities during his tenure. “Once you have this in place, then you can be competitive. It comes naturally. We have written a document giving recommendations on how to strengthen Parliament, and another on how to establish better procedures for public procurement.  Through these, what we’re saying is that we, as businesspeople, are also looking out to ensure the work is done correctly. For instance, if companies are not in line with the law, they shouldn’t be awarded public tenders.””

Trust is a two-way street, he says. “It’s our duty to raise these issues, since it creates a healthier economy which is more conducive to conducting correct business. To be more specific, if a tendering process has been launched and company A, that has done everything well, and paid all its dues, is competing with company B, that has not paid its taxes, then this is an unfair advantage, since the latter will have more cashflow, for a start.”

Concurrently, The Malta Chamber is also suggesting a lobby register – a proposal which has been put forward to Government over the past few years – in which meetings with public officials will be declared within 24 hours after the meeting is held, with the minutes uploaded on a public forum, so “they can be read and debated. They should be available to the public,” Mr Vassallo Cesareo says, pointing out that “the proposals being made by The Malta Chamber are always tangible, structured and concrete recommendations,” and therefore, workable.

This approach is crucial if The Malta Chamber is to fulfil its mission of championing the interests of the islands’ economic sectors and lobbying the authorities to ensure the best possible economic, social and political environment for businesses to flourish. “We are aligned to these five pillars, but we are also finding new priorities, new pillars. Our job never stops,” Mr Vassallo Cesareo attests.

Indeed, in the foreseeable future, The Malta Chamber will be focusing attention on the challenges associated with recruitment and human resources; the ease of doing business in Malta; access to finance and cashflow; helping to resolve the kinks in the supply chain; and the issue of Government competing with the private sector.

Moreover, The Malta  Chamber  is  keen  to  aid  businesses capitalise on the opportunities offered by technology, including by partnering up with Tech.mt, a Government entity launched to help tech companies export their digital offerings. “With this partnership, we represent the private sector, and we encourage firms to internationalise their products and services,” he says, adding that all local enterprises should be cognisant of the opportunities inherent in using digital solutions to also do business away from Malta’s shores.

“We are involved in several projects such as DS4Air, which has now ended, but its goal was to help companies become more tech-oriented. And there are other such initiatives in the pipeline, through which we give free services to our members, in order to help them expand,”” he continues.

Rising inflation has also been of concern to local businesses and, as a result, to The Malta Chamber. “At the moment, inflation is at a 3.61 per cent increase, averaging at 3.55 per cent, so this has been of major concern to private enterprises, irrespective of their size, turnover or sector. In fact, we’re being asked for clarity on how this will be resolved moving forward. We know, for instance, that Government has been absorbing the increasing costs of energy, but what’s going to happen when these subsidies stop?”

In his view, “Government must see how it is going to ease the way for local businesses in this regard, and I’m sure if we handle rising inflation correctly, we can navigate it. We don’t want the Government to be handing out money to everyone, for instance – but to those who really need it to survive. And once again, if a particular business has not paid its taxes, it should not be eligible for Government aid. Therefore, our solutions are very much linked to good governance and the associated competitiveness,” The Malta Chamber President says.

Looking ahead, Mr Vassallo Cesareo insists that the future is bright. “We’re celebrating 175 years of being in operation, and we still stand for the ethical voice of business in Malta. We champion policies and represent good business, and correct business. We have a strong stake, and there’s a firm direction, which can give the local business sector courage and strength to navigate what comes our way,” he concludes.

This article was first published in the Business Now 2023 magazine.

There is no ‘T’ without ‘H’


As the newly-elected President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, I see so much potential and business growth when one invests in tech and digitilisation. In fact one of the 5 main pillars in my vision for the coming two years is digitilisation.

As representatives of the private sector in Malta we find that the most salient barrier that really stands in the way of our progress with digitalisation is the lack of sufficiently skilled and reasonably priced human capital to make things happen. Digitalisation offers noticeable productivity gains and may be perceived as the easiest notion to get decision-makers to buy into, but technology does not just refer to digital technology.  The latter has overtaken our daily lives to the point where we frequently associate the term “technology” with it alone, without the human element which complements it.

Thanks to our Public Private Partnership, The Malta Chamber together with Tech.MT are best placed to ensure an enabling environment for a business-friendly transition which would ensure that the essential elements that enable Malta to be a “winner” in the digital economy of tomorrow are in place.

The development of critical competencies, such as numeracy and digital skills, is relevant to everyone in our community and is not just important for academic or professional settings. As The Malta Chamber,  we frequently argue in our contributions to policymaking, not least during our recent Jumpstart Learning conference in March which focused on Education. Indeed, modernising present employment and skills laws is vital to meet the demands of a world that is becoming progressively more digital. 

Regardless of the industry or the nature of the job, proficiency in the use of digital tools and services is essential. The Malta Chamber insists that one crucial requirement is for the educational curriculum to give all children a foundational understanding of ICT, something which is unfortunately still missing today.  

A comprehensive transformation approach goes well beyond cost reduction.  It places our companies on a higher performance trajectory.  It is true that some things require time, like altering mindsets and integrating digital technology outside of IT, but results will be rewarding.

In view of all this three essential stages must be accomplished to guarantee that changes stick, which are:  (a) establishing a foundation for an expedient execution at the outset; (b) maintaining momentum beyond the initial launch; and (c) merging the operational infrastructure of the transformation into business as usual. 

A variety of manufacturing and service sectors are adopting business models based on technology and product platforms, fundamentally altering the nature of the marketplace and the rules of competition.

In other words, there seems to be more emphasis about the tech (T) without the human resources (H)…

However, human capital continues to be the most important prerequisite for moving toward an open economy dependent on knowledge services, value-added manufacturing, and e-tourism – to mention a few.

Therefore, The Malta Chamber together with Tech.MT will continue to support you as you face and address difficulties associated with data security, lack of in-house IT professionals, employee resistance to change, organizational agility, and a plan for change along this digitalization path.

This article was first published in the Tech.mt Annual Report 2022.

Retail: Hand in Hand with Consumers

EY Malta’s Industry Focus Sessions held in collaboration with The Malta Chamber have returned. The event was the first in this year’s series which leverages the insights of The EY Future Consumer Index in different sectors, The Malta Chamber’s experienced network, and the perspective of business leaders in the market.

This session focused on the retail sector. The aim was to continue exploring new avenues of opportunities to redefine the industry in an ever-evolving local and global market post-COVID. The move to digital meant larger markets and greater space for experimenting with the customer’s journey. As consumer preferences and behaviours continue to change further growth is being envisaged.

Dr Marthese Portelli, CEO of The Malta Chamber kicked off the event. She said that, “retailers need to fully reimagine their business models. Very few have taken or are taking the full plunge. Some retailers are choosing to retain the status quo, while others are responding with incremental changes. This passivity has resulted in reduced spending and insufficient investment in crucial areas.” Dr Portelli also emphasised three main areas which the retail industry must work on: Managing the skills shift; Adopting a more agile and omni-channel operating model and Embracing automation across their organisations.

Gilbert Guillaumier, EY Malta Strategy and Transactions Partner, and Gianluca Trapani, EY Malta Strategy and Transactions Senior followed up with a presentation of the local results of the 8th EY Future Consumer Survey against the backdrop of global insights. The survey highlighted that the key emerging trends which are affecting consumer behaviour and choices are affordability, accelerated digital adoption, focus on health, awareness of sustainability issues, and seeking experiences.

In fact, these five themes were among the foremost topics covered by the panel discussion including Norman Aquilina, The Malta Chamber Council Member and CEO of Farsons Group; Geoffrey Debono, The Malta Chamber Council Member and CEO of Debono Group Holdings Company Ltd; Alona Andruk, CEO and Founder of Take Off and BundleX; moderated by Theo Dix from EY Malta.

The panel discussion revolved around the importance of having customers as a focal point for a successful brand strategy. They spoke about the fact that companies need to be sensitive to what the market is telling them and it would be foolish to push premium brands to all the customers if they are not interested in them. The speakers emphasised that, we as retailers need to know what the customers’ needs and preferences are and to do so constant communication with your target audience is key. To obtain this the use of technology and digitilisation is fundamental.

In her closing remarks, Rachel Attard, Head of Communications and Strategy at The Malta Chamber said that, “This survey showed that consumers and retailers are vividly aware that this is a time of disruption. There is increasing pressure on profitability and return on capital. But at the same time there is a growth of opporunities, new opportunites, leading to a sustainable future.”

Key Findings and Observations

The study showed that growing concerns about affordability have led to a change in priorities from long-term, collective goals, towards shorter term, individual goals. This reprioritisation is driving behaviours such as cutting back on non-essential spending, exploring alternative brands to reduce costs, and becoming more sensitive towards wastage.

An extent of spending reprioritisation is seen between customer segments by income category, as lower/ middle income groups are indicating less expenditure on discretionary items, whilst high income earners are spending more on grocery deliveries, non-alcoholic beverages, and vacations in the coming months.

Customers are gradually starting to follow through on their intentions on the sustainability agenda by making incremental behavioural changes in this respect. Consumers are now demanding better information, easier access to sustainable products, and less confusion around sustainability claims of companies. Especially when considering that 61% of buyers now pay more attention to the environmental impact of their purchases with 51% also noting their societal impact.

Against this backdrop, the need for customer-centricity is not retreating, but accelerating as consumer expectations evolve, enabled by other factors such as increased transparency and choice, rapid technological shifts (especially in digital environments), mounting concerns and commitments around sustainability, and convergence between different sectors as retailers explore new ways to unlock value.

Way Forward

Inflation is showing no signs of slowing and consumers are concerned. Retailers must act in accordance with their customers’ changing priorities. Some retailers may find that passing on cost increases to customers can prove difficult and efficiencies in the cost structure need to be sought. Technology and digitisation of business processes can help in this respect. Customers also want more transparency around business’s sustainability goals and a better customer experience overall.

It may seem a tall order but those who are embracing adaptation are finding new areas of revenue which is helping them both survive and thrive. It is time to accept that the new normal is here to stay, and while the appeal of shopping pre-COVID is still around it will take more than that to convince patrons to buy.

New digital experience for BNF bank customers

Users of BNF Bank’s website can now experience an enhanced digital experience, as the Bank launches its new intuitive and enhanced website, designed to give customers excellence in user-centricity.

With a fresh interface, simple and enhanced navigation elements, streamlined content and a responsive design, the new platform provides customers with a more engaging experience. The technology behind the platform also ensures, not just a more responsive experience, but also the most robust security, guaranteeing the highest level of protection to clients.

Daniel Cutajar Chief Technology & Operations Officer at BNF Bank explained how the new design is focused on making the website easier and faster to navigate, with updated content to assist visitors in finding the right product, service or rate for their financial needs. “This project is our first step of the Bank’s digital transformation journey, that aspires to always offer the best and most advanced technological tools to our customers, reinforcing the Bank’s resolve to promote digital customer interactions across our virtual touch-points and platforms.” he noted.

Mr Cutajar continued “we recognise the transformative power of technology in today’s fast-paced corporate landscape and the crucial part it plays in future-proofing our Bank, whilst assuring our clients of the trust-worthiness of the Bank as their lifetime financial partner.”

PwC’s Academy launches a comprehensive CPE qualified programme on ESG

PwC has developed a new ESG learning journey, the first of its kind on the local market, which offers a
comprehensive programme for professionals to upskill themselves and obtain the right knowledge
across the ESG landscape and in preparation for the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

We have heard a lot about the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) recently that
will require large companies and listed SMEs to report on various sustainability matters in accordance
with the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS).

Beyond disclosures, the aim of this Directive is to foster responsible corporate behaviour and to anchor
sustainable considerations in companies’ operations and corporate governance. In this respect,
organisations need to not only enhance their financial reporting processes, but understand how
sustainability matters affect their business more broadly, and craft a strategy to respond to these

Along this journey, data is sure to be a pain point for most companies, as is the knowledge required to
understand which impacts are material and how best to measure and report on the multiple metrics
that need to be published and independently verified. In recognition of this reality, PwC’s learning programme is being launched at the end of September, to help companies and SMEs become ESG-ready, while offering Continuing Professional Education
(CPE) hours to professionals.

Since many companies are in the early stages of their ESG journey, this upskilling programme is aimed
at supporting the transformation that is likely to be needed, and consists of best practices that can help
organisations in their strategic reinvention, reimagined reporting and ESG business transformation.
This comprehensive corporate ESG programme will take place at PwC’s Academy in Qormi, and
consists of nine (9) face-to-face CPE sessions, three (3) dedicated towards ESG essentials, three (3)
focusing more on the ESG reporting and a final three (3) sessions on ESG strategy and transformation.

The full bundle covers completion of twenty-three (23) CPE qualified hours. Alternatively, one can opt
for just the ‘Essentials’ bundle which covers four (4) sessions (An introduction to ESG, The
Environmental Pillar, The Social Pillar and The Governance Pillar) or for the ‘Advanced’ bundle
covering the remaining five (5) sessions (CSRD in Practice, ESG in Taxation, ESG Strategy and
Transformation, ESG Technology and a final ESG application workshop). One can also opt to register
for one or more sessions individually. Are you ready?

CPE is the continuation for professional education credits in order to remain a licensed Certified Public
Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA). The aim is to maintain and develop
the qualities required in their working lives to continue professional education. Normally a completion
of at least 30 CPE credit hours of either structured or unstructured learning during the calendar year is

To book a CPE bundle or discover more of PwC’s ESG learning offerings visit their website.

Skills Rush: Have we missed the bus?

“Education matters greatly for business. It matters for human capital; digitalisation; sustainability; good governance; and for the overarching goal of resilient economic growth. All this is key to maintaining Malta’s international competitiveness,” The Malta Chamber President, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, said in his opening speech during a conference organised in collaboration with HSBC Malta Foundation.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry organised a conference titled ‘Skills Rush: Have we missed the bus?’ which published the analysis and results of an exercise carried out by Prof. Alexiei Dingli and Prof. Rose Marie Azzopardi in relation to Human Capital and its transition from a local, European and Global context. This study was carried out through the Human Capital Research Project funded by the HSBC Malta Foundation.

The Malta Chamber President said that “we will remain committed to put the Education sector at the forefront of our work. Human Capital has always been one of Malta’s greatest resources and we are supporting this project because we believe in having an optimum workforce that can address future needs.”

Geoffrey Fichte, CEO at HSBC Bank Malta, noted that “given HSBC’s commitment to Malta, we want to raise awareness on an important topic that affects our customers and the community: Future Skills. At HSBC Malta, we are constantly investing in the long-term success of our people and our community. We need to ensure that our people have the skills needed for the jobs of the future. Therefore, we are supporting this 3-year project, which is being endorsed by the Ministry for Education, because it anticipates the skills needed to succeed and ensure Malta’s ongoing competitiveness in the global economy. Together with The Malta Chamber we hope that this project plays a key role in the formation of national policy in this area.”

Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Clifton Grima in his address said that “we need to equip our students with the necessary skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. The education system should be able to give our children the right tools that the future needs.”

AI Expert Prof. Alexiei Dingli together with Economist Prof. Rose Marie Azzopardi emphasised that in today’s fast-changing world, Malta is ready to make a big difference in education. “We need to create learning plans that are personalised for every student’s unique needs and talents, instead of a one size fits all. Tools like chatGPT can greatly help our learning process. It’s no longer about having access to knowledge but more about knowing how to use it in our tech-driven world. It’s also important to connect school learning with real-world jobs. We want our students not only to learn but to use this knowledge in everyday life. This means getting them comfortable with digital tools and technology from a young age. Malta’s current economic model is unsustainable.  We need to focus on quality not quantity, evaluate the high level of skills mismatch in the labour market, aim for a skills anticipation strategy, consider reskilling and upskilling as an ongoing process and work to ensure we implement the strategies, we as stakeholders decide upon together. We need to act before it is too late,” they said.

In her closing remarks, Dr Marthese Portelli, The Malta Chamber CEO, said that “our economy depends, directly and intrinsically, on a high standard of education in order to enable us to broaden our intellectual capital through successful human resource growth. For this reason, education must be continuous, relevant and attractive. The bottom line in education is not how much money we spend, but on what we spend it and how we spend it.”