To prevent so-called greenwashing, the European Commission is proposing common criteria against misleading environmental claims. This should give consumers greater clarity and more certainty that something sold as environmentally friendly is actually environmentally friendly.
European Commission Executive President Frans Timmermans, responsible for the European Green Deal, said: “Environmental claims are ubiquitous: from ocean-friendly T-shirts, CO2-neutral bananas and bee-friendly juices to shipping with 100 percent CO2 compensation. Unfortunately, these claims are all too often devoid of any evidence or justification. This opens the door to greenwashing and puts companies that produce truly sustainable products at a disadvantage.”
EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius added: “There are 230 different eco-labels on the EU market. It is important to be able to trust environmental claims and labels on products. The Commission’s proposals will protect businesses and consumers from harmful greenwashing practices and stop the proliferation of labels and marks.”
The proposal is also expected to bring benefits to businesses: It will be clearer to see which companies are making real efforts to improve the environmental performance of their products, he said. The push is intended to create a level playing field when it comes to claims about the environmental performance of products.
Study on “green claims”
According to a 2020 Commission study, 53.3 percent of environmental claims reviewed in the EU were found to be vague, misleading or unsubstantiated. 40 percent of the claims were unsubstantiated. In the absence of common rules on voluntary environmental claims, or green claims, by companies, greenwashing occurs and creates an uneven playing field in the EU market, it said. This puts sustainable companies at a disadvantage, he said.
Under the proposal, companies that make voluntary environmental claims about their products or services must comply with minimum standards. These relate both to how these claims are to be substantiated and to how they are communicated. This involves explicit advertising claims, such as “climate-neutral shipping” or “packaging made of 30 percent recycled plastic.” It also aims to tackle the increasing proliferation of public and private eco-labels.
The proposal covers all voluntary advertising claims about environmental impacts, aspects or performance of products, services and the traders themselves. However, it excludes environmental claims covered by existing EU legislation, such as the EU Ecolabel or the EU organic logo for organic food, as existing legislation already ensures.