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The European Union Raises the Bar on Climate Claims Why Tackling Greenwashing is Key to Empowering Consumers for a Sustainable Future

The European Union Raises the Bar on Climate Claims: Why Tackling Greenwashing is Key to Empowering Consumers for a Sustainable Future

The European Union has taken a significant leap forward in its commitment to a sustainable future with the European Parliament’s adoption of the Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition (EmpCo Directive). This groundbreaking legislation amends the Directives on unfair commercial practices (2005/29/EC) and consumer rights (2011/83/EU) to establish stricter requirements for environmental and sustainability-related advertising, marking a critical step in the fight against greenwashing and towards a culture of transparency and accountability to support the green transition and the circular economy.

Clarifying Environmental Claims

At the heart of the EmpCo Directive is the introduction of limits on making generic environmental claims, and on the use of sustainability labels. This aims to ensure that when products claim to be “green”, “eco-friendly” or “ecological”, the claims are substantiated and meaningful, cutting through the fog of vague or misleading marketing. In particular, the Directive targets climate claims such as “climate friendly” or “climate neutral”, requiring them to be supported by clear, objective, publicly available and verifiable corporate commitments and targets, set out in a detailed and realistic implementation plan that shows how these commitments and targets will be achieved and how resources will be allocated, and regularly verified by an independent third party, with the results made available to consumers.

Combatting Greenwashing

One of the most powerful aspects of the EmpCo Directive is its ‘blacklist’ of unfair commercial practices. Practices that are considered inherently unfair include 1) the use of sustainability labels that are not based on a certification scheme or established by public authorities, 2) the use of generic environmental claims that are not based on evidence of recognized excellent environmental performance, and 3) the claim that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on GHG offsetting. By eliminating deceptive practices from the outset, this will make it easier for consumers to trust the sustainability claims they encounter, while ensuring a level playing field for companies. This provides clarity and transparency for those companies that already follow international best practice in sustainability certification.

Implementing the Change

The EmpCo Directive sets out a timetable for EU Member States to transpose these rules into national law, with full implementation expected by mid-2026. The transition period provides businesses with an opportunity to start aligning their practices with the new rules, while pursuing decarbonization and integrating science-based climate- and nature-positive practices into their operations and communicating them to customers. As such, the Directive not only empowers consumers but also challenges businesses to innovate and truly embed sustainability into their operations. It represents a collective step towards a more sustainable and equitable European market, where consumers can make informed choices, and businesses compete on the authenticity of their commitment to the planet. Environmental labels based on a certification scheme, such as the Green Initiative’s climate labels, will play a key role in helping companies to integrate best practices into their business models while also informing customers of their exemplary environmental performance, contributing to value addition and transparency.

A Collective Step Towards Sustainability

As society embraces the EmpCo Directive, it stands at the threshold of a transformative journey towards sustainability. It’s a journey that requires the participation of all – businesses, consumers, and policymakers – united by the common goal of ensuring a thriving, sustainable future for generations to come. Together, we can turn the tide towards a more sustainable world, where transparency, accountability, and genuine green practices are the norm, not the exception. For advice and support on how your company can meet its climate and nature goals based on sound technical practices that can deliver new competitive advantages and innovation in products and services, please contact us.

Written by Frédéric Perron-Welch, Head of Climate and Nature Policy from the Green Initiative Team.


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