EU announces new rules to prevent greenwashing


The European Union has launched plans to make companies substantiate green claims by requiring claims to be “independently verified” and “proven with scientific evidence”.

The draft legal proposal by the European Commission targets companies that are not able to substantiate specific claims about their products, such as “made from recycled materials”.

However, environmental campaign groups have criticised the proposal as not strong enough, with the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) saying the proposal remains vague on how it will be implemented.

The Commission says that, as part of the scientific analysis, companies must identify the environmental impacts that are relevant to their product and any possible trade-offs to give a “full and accurate” picture.

Under the proposal claims or labels that use aggregate scoring of a product’s overall environmental impact, will no longer be permitted, unless set in EU rules. If products or organisations are compared with competitors, comparisons have to also be based on equivalent information and data.

The proposals tabled by the Commission today will protect businesses and consumers from harmful greenwashing practices.

Commenting on the legislation, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “All of us want to do our best to limit the impacts of our consumption choices on the environment, but it’s not easy being green. We are bombarded with information.

“There are 230 different ecolabels on the EU market. Being able to trust green claims and labels on products is important. The proposals tabled by the Commission today will protect businesses and consumers from harmful greenwashing practices and tackle the proliferation of labels.

However, the changes have drawn criticism from environmental campaign groups. NGO ECOS said that what could have been legislation contributing to providing reliable environmental information to consumers was substantially watered down following, what it described as, months of “intense lobbying”.

Programme manager for Environmental Information and Assessment at ECOS, Margaux Le Gallou, commented: “Sadly, without harmonised methodologies at the EU level, the new Directive will provide little clarity to consumers and business, and will only complicate the job of market surveillance authorities.”

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