The European Parliament has voted in favor of the Green Claims Directive proposal by 544 votes to 18. The next step will be for Parliament, the Commission and Member States to negotiate the final content of the Directive.
The Green Claims Directive proposal aims to help consumers choose environmentally friendly products and to encourage companies to produce more sustainable products. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 63% of consumers in EU Member States do not trust product manufacturers’ sustainability claims. Businesses therefore have a lot of work to do in sustainability communication to win consumers’ trust.
On the other hand, many companies that, for example, take very effective climate action, are afraid of greenwashing and choose not to communicate their sustainability actions. If implemented, the Green Claims Directive will also bring relief to companies that fear greenwashing, as the rules will be clear and written in law. Climate claims are one of the most common environmental claims on products, and standards-based carbon footprint calculation provide a strong basis for communication.
One of the proposals in the Green Claims Directive proposal is to ban the use of overly general and misleading environmental claims unless the company can provide detailed evidence to support the claims. Examples of such claims include “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable” and “ecological”. Parliament also aims to persuade the Commission and the Council to ban environmental claims based solely on offsetting carbon dioxide emissions. This objective was not part of the original proposal made by the European Commission last year but was added by the Parliament.
If implemented, the Green Claims Directive would also prohibit the generalization of an environmental claim to the whole of product, if the claim is only true for one part of the product. Such claims can be seen, for example, in food products where the claim in fact relates only to the packaging and not to the whole product. In addition, the Directive would also address the limitation of the lifetime of a product and the inoperability of products with spare parts manufactured by other companies.
MEPs also want to encourage companies to make long-lasting products, and the proposal would require the manufacturer of a product to inform the consumer of any restrictions to the repair and maintenance of the product before the purchase decision is made. MEPs also propose a new warranty label on products, which would allow manufacturers to indicate the length of the warranty they offer beyond the statutory warranty. Circular economy and the extension of product life cycle often brings climate benefits, compared to the previous situation where consumers had to buy a new product more often. The Green Claims Directive is also intended to limit the use of various sustainability labels. Parliament proposes that companies should only be able to use labels based on official certification schemes recognized or established by a public authority.
Until now, it has been preferable that anyone making claims would be able to prove them. However, this has not been the case, leading to a situation where consumers are unable to trust the claims made on products. Green Claims Directive, if implemented, would therefore help both the consumers and those companies that take active steps to reduce and increase their carbon footprint, for example. It will also encourage, and in some cases force, companies to act in a more sustainable way, both in terms of climate and biodiversity.
Companies can avoid greenwashing by doing their homework carefully. For example, in the case of climate claims, this means calculating the carbon footprint according to standards and providing reliable documentation of the calculation, whether it is a claim about a company, a product or a service. Carbon neutrality claims based on offsetting alone should not be made at all. The first step in achieving carbon neutrality is a reliable carbon footprint calculation, followed by an emission reduction plan and active reduction measures. Only as a last resort should offsetting be used, and the amount of offsetting should decrease each year as a result of active emission reduction measures.
Companies should not wait for the final adoption of the Green Claims Directive but take action. The Green Claims Directive proposal is driving companies to rely more and more on evidence-based communication, and careful assessment of environmental impacts is crucial to both the Green Claims Directive and Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) requirements. A standards-based carbon footprint calculation will serve as a pillar for both emissions reductions and communication. A reliable calculation and the climate claims based on it are a reliable way to avoid greenwashing.
OpenCO2.net helps companies avoid greenwashing with openCO2.net carbon footprint platform, training, and consultancy. We provide companies with standards-based data to support emission reductions and reliable communication. We also help companies to develop new, climate-friendly business and help to measure the positive carbon handprint.
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