The European Commission has announced plans to introduce common criteria against greenwashing and misleading environmental claims.
The EU body says that the absence of common rules for companies making ‘green’ claims about their products or services leads to greenwashing, and creates an uneven playing field in the EU's market, to the disadvantage of genuinely sustainable companies.
Its proposed Green Claims Directive aims to provide consumers with more clarity and stronger reassurance that, when something is sold as green, it actually is green.
The commission states that the measures will give consumers better-quality information to choose environmentally-friendly products and services.
Benefits for businesses
It believes that businesses that make a genuine effort to improve the environmental sustainability of their products will also benefit, as their efforts will be more easily recognized and rewarded by consumers.
A commission study from 2020 found that more than half of examined environmental claims in the EU were found to be vague, misleading, or unfounded, while 40% were unsubstantiated.
The EU body's proposals include a requirement for companies to respect minimum standards on how they substantiate claims about sustainability, and how they communicate them.
The measures target explicit claims about products or services, which will need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence.
"As part of the scientific analysis, companies will identify the environmental impacts that are actually relevant to their product, as well as identifying any possible trade-offs, to give a full and accurate picture," the commission says.
The proposals include a number of rules on labelling, to combat what the commission describes as "consumer confusion and distrust" arising from the 230 different environmental labels that currently exist.
"To control the proliferation of such labels, new public labeling schemes will not be allowed, unless developed at EU level, and any new private schemes will need to show higher environmental ambition than existing ones, and get a pre-approval, to be allowed." The commission said.
The proposal will now be subject to the approval of the European Parliament and the EU Council.