EU unveils plans to tackle greenwashing

Morgan Condon


LONDON (ICIS)–The European Commission has launched a proposal to stamp out greenwashing in a bid to support consumers seeking sustainable alternatives.

In the Proposal for a Directive on Green Claims published on Tuesday, the paper demands more stringent measures for companies to prove environmental claims and transparent labelling.

Evidence from a public consultation in 2020 and proposals supporting the green transition indicated “misleading practices, such as greenwashing and lack of transparency and credibility of environmental labels” happened at various stages of consumption.

More than half of the samples studied in 2020 made environmental claims that were vague, misleading or unfounded, with 40% of the claims unsubstantiated.

This new proposal would be implemented alongside the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive to “tackle false environmental claims by ensuring that buyers receive reliable, comparable and verifiable information,” the paper said.

The study found that consumer trust in environmental claims was quite low, and that in current conditions companies offering truly sustainable products are at a disadvantage, and face unnecessarily high compliance costs.

The change will mean traders would not be able to deceive consumers about the environmental or social impact, durability, and reparability and would be prevented from making generic, unproven environmental claims.

It would also restrict the presentation of legal requirements as a distinctive feature offer as well as any sustainability labels not based on a certification scheme or established by public authorities.

“Companies routinely use environmental claims to market their goods, and when consumers see those claims, it’s difficult to separate truth from fiction,” said Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, responsible for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

“I have seen jackets where on the label it’s written that they are made from recycled plastic bottles, but when you look closer only 1% is made from recycled bottles. This is what we want to avoid.”

Sinkevicius added that the proposal “has teeth” as EU Member States would be able to carry out enforcements including inspections, sanctions and judicial pursuits in line with consumer protection laws.

Thumbnail image shows a bottle deposit in Utrecht, the Netherlands (image credit: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock)


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