Echoing my partner John Feldman’s message that general environmental claims should be avoided in the US, the same caution should be applied in the EU.
The EU Commission, like many other authorities worldwide, has definitely jumped on the anti-greenwashing bandwagon and is intent on ensuring that companies substantiate claims they make about the environmental aspects or performance of their products.
The practice of greenwashing is far from marginal in the EU as recent reports suggest that more than half of environmental claims across the EU and across a wide range of products provide vague, misleading or uninformed information about products’ environmental characteristics. Such claims are consistently found to be unsubstantiated meaning that no or insufficient elements were provided to assess the claim’s accuracy, in particular as to whether the claim covers an entire product or only part of its components, or which stage of a product’s lifecycle it covers.
New EU legislation in the form of the proposed Green Claims Directive will be ushered into the EU, whereby all green claims will need to meet minimum substantiation criteria and businesses will have to carry out a detailed assessment on the reliability, verifiability and comparability of a claim to ensure it is not misleading. In other words, if something is sold as green, it will actually have to be green and not just because the seller says it is green.
The EU Commission has gone one step further and will introduce an obligation for businesses to obtain a certificate of conformity from a national third party conformity assessment body, which will certify that an environmental claim made in the EU is compliant with these rules.
National authorities will be given extensive investigative and remedial powers to impose penalties including fines and confiscation of revenues against companies guilty of greenwashing.
With this proposed Directive, it seems the EU Commission is ‘walking the walk on the anti-greenwashing path, not just talking the talk’.