In mid-March 2023, the EU Commission published the new Common Criteria against greenwashing and misleading environmental claims.
The primary objective is to put consumers in a position to be able to trust what is written on the label of the item they are buying because the manufacturing company has complied with a clear regulation and shared principles in declaring that content.
Infact, today it is difficult for consumers to make sense of the many labels on the environmental performance of products (both goods and services) and companies. There are around 230 different kind of labels claiming green messages..
Some environmental claims are not reliable, and consumer trust in them is extremely low. Consumers can be misled, and companies can give a false impression of their environmental impacts or benefits – a practise known as greenwashing.
With a proposed new law on green claims, the EU is taking action to address greenwashing, and protect consumers and the environment.
Ensuring that environmental labels and claims are credible and trustworthy will allow consumers to make better informed purchasing decisions. It will also boost the competitiveness of businesses who are striving to increase the environmental sustainability of their products and activities.
According to a 2020 Commission study, 53.3% of the environmental claims examined were found to be vague and misleading and 40% without foundation, specifically:
Continuing reading the EU statement we find that the objectives of the proposal are:
- make green claims reliable, comparable and verifiable across the EU;
- protect consumers from greenwashing;
- contribute to creating a circular and green EU economy by enabling consumers to make informed purchasing decisions;
- help establish a level playing field when it comes to environmental performance of products.
To ensure consumers receive reliable, comparable and verifiable environmental information on products, the proposal includes:
- clear criteria on how companies should prove their environmental claims and labels
- requirements for these claims and labels to be checked by an independent and accredited verifier and
- new rules on governance of environmental labelling schemes to ensure they are solid, transparent and reliable
The proposal targets explicit claims that
- are made on a voluntary basis by businesses towards consumers,
- cover the environmental impacts, aspects or performance of a product or the trader itself
- are not currently covered by other EU rules
The way in which documentation and veracity of environmental claims will be verified is up to the member states who ‘will be responsible for establishing verification and application processes, which must be performed by independent and accredited verifiers’.
A role is also attributed to consumer associations: the Commission’s Green Claims proposal provides that, thanks to the directive on representative actions (EU) 2020/1828, “entitled subjects”, such as consumer organisations, will be able to bring legal actions to protect the collective interests of consumers.
The Commission’s proposal raises the level of possible intervention: in the first place because it clearly specifies the criteria for establishing when an environmental claim is acceptable, and furthermore because it provides that a verification of the claim is always done in advance, i.e. before the producer’s communication has reached his target.
For now, this is a proposal for a European directive, which – if approved – will then have to be implemented by the member states as usual. Indicate a goal, not yet the ways to achieve it.
Edmond Product Footprint’s calculators are perfectly in line with this direction, by providing specific and granular CO2e measurements based on scientific data, which can be incorporated in the product labeling and communicated to the final consumers!