Commission releases plans to fight greenwashing

With its Proposal for a Green Claims Directive, the European Commission seeks to provide clear minimum requirements for companies to substantiate and communicate any information on the environmental performance and impact of their products. By doing so, the Commission wants to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices for climate and the environment and to fight misleading claims and greenwashing.

Furthermore, the Commission also wants to set requirements for environmental labelling schemes that certify producers’ or traders’ compliance.

The future directive will apply to all products marketed in the Union. As such it seeks to influence global value chains and to incentivize the production of goods in third countries with a positive environmental performance. The legislation would not apply to those products for which vertical EU legislation already exists, e.g., organic, energy-related, or construction products, and co2 aspects of new cars, batteries, etc.

Member States will be asked to set up procedures for verifying the substantiation and communication of the claims, as well as for overseeing compliance with existing public labelling schemes. Details on the form of the certificate of conformity that accompany environmental claims will be later defined in implementing acts. Once adopted, national authorities shall ensure enforcement of this directive, including establishing complaint procedures and eventually also penalties.  

National authorities will also need to ensure that claims are significant and that positive environmental performance does not lead to significant harm in other aspects related to the environment (e.g., climate change, resource consumption, circularity, pollution, biodiversity, and animal welfare). Special attention is given to any claims related to greenhouse gas emission offsets. Whilst the term “authorisation” is not explicitly mentioned, it is implied as such.

“It remains to be seen whether this divergent approach will create a level playing field across the EU for both companies and consumers and how co-legislators will view this approach.”

Katharina Ossenberg, Account director

Member States will become essential in the substantiation of any claims. Only if the Commission were to conclude that the different approaches to claims would lead to obstacles in the Single Market, it will supplement the requirements for claims by a delegated act. 

The Commission’s approach to environmental claims seems quite different compared to its previous efforts on labelling. The proposal on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, currently being negotiated among the co-legislators, stipulates that labelling is meant to “significantly improve the circularity, energy performance, environmental impacts, and other environmental sustainability aspects for specific priority product groups”, enabling “the setting of performance and information requirements for almost all categories of physical goods placed on the EU market.” Here, the Commission is already quite advanced in defining implementing acts and is currently working on a list of priorities.

It remains to be seen whether this divergent approach will create a level playing field across the EU for both companies and consumers and how co-legislators will view this approach. Companies intending to make claims in the future should closely monitor the outcome of these implementing acts related to the Eco-design for Sustainable Products Regulation, in order to obtain a better understanding of how product performances are being assessed.

How can FIPRA support your business?

At FIPRA, we follow new policy, legislative and regulatory developments at the EU and national level closely, and we provide our clients with valuable insights on processes and content. We can provide your organization with a FIPRA Policy Audit on the new Green Claims Directive, what this would mean for your business operations, how you can gain, by complying as an early adopter, a competitive advantage in your sector, and how you can advocate your interests with other stakeholders involved. 

For any questions, please contact :

Katharina Ossenberg at [email protected] 

Laura Mazzei at [email protected]

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