EU Directive targets greenwashing: new ban on misleading environmental claims

EU Directive targets greenwashing new ban on misleading environmental claims

The European Parliament has recently passed a Directive aimed at combating greenwashing by prohibiting the use of unsupported environmental claims on products.

What is the new EU Directive? 

Finalised in Strasbourg, the new EU Directive mandates a more authentic and verifiable approach to the labelling of goods. It is envisioned that this system will enable consumers to be able to trust the green claims made by producers. 

Under this new mandate, labels such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “climate neutral”, or “biodegradable” will need to be supported with evidence before they can be used.

What does this mean?

This development means that, within two years, Ireland, among other EU member states, will need to incorporate this Directive into national law. The Directive specifies that all sustainability claims must receive certification or approval from recognised competent public authorities. This will lead to an overhaul of the EU’s product labelling system. 

This change will affect durable goods and electronics like toasters, mobile phones, and washing machines. Furthermore, the Directive tightens restrictions on broad green claims. For instance, terms like “eco” or “green” can only be used if a product is verifiably more sustainable than its conventional counterparts. Additionally, these products must be validated by reputable schemes, such as the EU Ecolabel. 

This rule also extends to businesses where only a minor aspect has been made more sustainable. Therefore, they are unable to market an entire product or company as green. The Directive also enhances oversight on sustainability labels, requiring third-party verification for their validity.

The impact of the Directive on consumers

A notable aspect of the Directive is its provision for consumers’ rights, including the ban on unfounded durability labels, thus supporting the EU’s broader “right to repair” initiatives. 

Ciarán Cuffe, a Dublin Green Party MEP, highlighted that this Directive would shield consumers from misleading green labels and ensure that products are designed to last longer. The Directive also includes measures to provide consumers with information on product repairability and longevity at the point of purchase.

The implementation of the new Directive

Each member state is tasked with designating a “national competent authority” to oversee product certification. While the Directive encompasses various products, it complements the already stringent labelling regime for food products in the EU. This regime requires organic food products to adhere to EU organic regulations and certification.

Banned practices will include making generic environmental claims without solid proof and misleading information about product durability. Additionally, claims based on emissions offsetting without real environmental impact and misusing sustainability labels not backed by approved certification schemes. Not only that, but the Directive targets practices that encourage premature product replacement, unnecessary software updates, and false claims concerning a product’s repairability. 

Conclusion – Achieving a greenwashing-free world

Greenwashing has increasingly risen in recent years as consumers increasingly want to align their purchases with their values. Research finds that 68 percent of US Executives admit they are guilty of greenwashing, and 42 percent of environmental claims made online are likely false or deceptive. 

To make the sustainable transition, we need businesses to not just talk the talk but walk the walk too. This new Directive from the EU offers a beacon of hope that we can overcome the greenwashing hurdle. More transparent marketing will also allow us to address the waste crisis as consumers are offered repairable, durable, and sustainable products.

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