NEW EU Law against Greenwashing
March 2023 Commission adopts proposal for a Directive on green claims.
Enabling true sustainable choices and sanctioning greenwashing.
Today, the Commission is proposing common criteria against greenwashing and misleading environmental claim.
As we, 360 Agency Berlin wrote in our ‘What is sustainable advertising’ Manifesto back in January 2023:
For consumers, it is worrying to see that many brands environmental claims and products attributes are not systematically verified. As a consequence it might erode the credibility of sustainable efforts on the long term. This is why it is vital to fight actively against greenwashing, but also offer new propositions to better regulate our industry.
A Commission study from 2020 highlighted that 53.3% of examined environmental claims in the EU were found to be vague, misleading or unfounded and 40% were unsubstantiated. The absence of common rules for companies making voluntary green claims leads to ‘greenwashing' and creates an uneven playing field in the EU's market, to the disadvantage of genuinely sustainable companies.
According to the proposal, when companies choose to make a ‘green claim' about their products or services, they will have to respect minimum norms on how they substantiate these claims and how they communicate them.
The proposal targets explicit claims, such as for example: ‘T-shirt made of recycled plastic bottles', ‘CO2 compensated delivery', ‘packaging made of 30% recycled plastic' or ‘ocean friendly sunscreen'. It also aims to tackle the proliferation of labels as well as new public and private environmental labels. It covers all voluntary claims about the environmental impacts, aspects or performance of a product, service or the trader itself. However, it excludes claims that are covered by existing EU rules, such as the EU Ecolabel or the organic food logo, because the current laws already ensure that these regulated claims are reliable. Claims which will be covered by upcoming EU regulatory rules, will be excluded for the same reason.
Before companies communicate any of the covered types of ‘green claims' to consumers, such claims will need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence. As part of the scientific analysis, companies will identify the environmental impacts that are actually relevant to their product, as well as identifying any possible trade-offs, to give a full and accurate picture.
Clear and harmonised rules and labels.
Several rules will make sure that claims are communicated clearly. For example, claims or labels that use aggregate scoring of the product's overall environmental impact, will no longer be permitted, unless set in EU rules. If products or organisations are compared with others, such comparisons should be based on equivalent information and data.
The proposal will also regulate environmental labels. There are currently at least 230 different labels and there is evidence that this leads to consumer confusion and distrust. To control the proliferation of such labels, new public labelling schemes will not be allowed, unless developed at EU level, and any new private schemes will need to show higher environmental ambition than existing ones and get a pre-approval to be allowed. There are detailed rules about environmental labels in general: they must also be reliable, transparent, independently verified, and regularly reviewed.
Following the ordinary legislative procedure, the Green Claims Directive proposal will now be subject to the approval of the European Parliament and the Council.