May 26, 2024

What’s new in the EU Directive on Green Claims

Whats new in the EU Directive on Green Claims

What's new in the EU Directive on Green Claims

Constantinos Agrotis, Expert in Environmental Management, ideopsis Ltd

Protecting the environment is one of the biggest stakes of modern societies. One of the daily realities for millions of European consumers is exposure to countless product advertisements claiming that the products they are promoting are environmentally friendly. Thus, consumers witness many green claims or environmental claims about products, when in fact, as a European survey in 2020 showed, around 50% of these claims were either too general or misleading, while 40% were unsubstantiated. In this way, the phenomena of Greenwashing (“false ecological claims”) and Green Claims are intensified.

Companies operating in the European Union often make voluntary environmental claims with little or no evidence and documentation to support these claims. However, this can lead to “false environmental identity”, where products or processes are presented as more environmentally friendly than they really are. This is both misleading to customers and unfair to companies that are genuinely working to improve their environmental performance.

Therefore, it is crucial that consumers understand the real environmental impact of the products they intend to buy, so that they can be guided to make the most environmentally sound choices.

To tackle these phenomena, the European Parliament adopted a new Directive complementing the one already adopted on greenwashing and misleading information. This Directive puts in place strict rules for companies, requiring them to provide reliable scientific data and verifiable information on the environmental performance claims of their products. The Directive must now also receive final approval from the Council, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and Member States will have 24 months to transpose it into national law. One of the main provisions of the Directive will be that Member States will have to make sure that before companies make environmental claims to consumers, they will have to carry out an assessment so that they can substantiate their environmental claims and allegations.

This new Directive is an important step in terms of consumer and environmental protection. By enhancing transparency and confidence in environmental claims, the EU seeks to help consumers make informed decisions before making purchases, while promoting the adoption of sustainable practices by businesses.

The European Commission has not set out a specific methodology but has nevertheless listed several criteria that should be met. For example, it should be explicitly stated whether the eco-claim relates to the product as a whole or just a part of it, considering the life-cycle perspective of the product or demonstrating that it has exceeded the legal requirements.  

Furthermore, eco-claims should be independently verifiable, scientifically verifiable, and clearly communicated to consumers. The Directive also introduces rules for environmental labelling schemes. For example, in 2020 there were around 230 eco-labels in Europe.

Enforcing the strict standards foreseen will encourage companies to invest in green practices and provide accurate and reliable information about their products to consumers. However, some fear that the complex and costly verification and certification process could discourage small and medium-sized enterprises from adopting green practices or leave the path of certified eco-claims open only to financially powerful market players. On the other hand, consumer, and environmental organisations, while welcoming the Directive, believe that the European Commission should soon go a step further and ban misleading carbon neutrality claims. Overall, this Directive is an important step towards sustainable development and environmental protection. By enhancing transparency and credibility in environmental claims, it can ensure that consumers receive the right information to make sustainable purchasing choices.

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What's new in the EU Directive on Green Claims
Constantinos Agrotis, Expert in Environmental Management, ideopsis Ltd
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