EU green light for new rules against counterfeiting

The European Parliament has adopted its position on the establishment of a verification and pre-approval system for companies’ environmental declarations, to combat the use of misleading ads. The directive, adopted at first reading with 467 votes in favour, 65 against and 74 abstentions, integrates an already existing European law which prohibits greenwashing (facade environmentalism).

The content of the directive

The directive on ecological declarations (in English green claims) would force companies to present evidence to support their environmental marketing claims before they can advertise products with definitions such as “biodegradable”, “less polluting”, “water saving” or “made from organic raw materials”. EU countries would therefore be called upon to identify those responsible for these checks, to scrutinize the use of such “claims”, protecting buyers from unfounded and ambiguous advertising.

Parliament wants the declarations and related evidence is evaluated within 30 days, but simpler claims and products may benefit from faster or easier verification. Microbusinesses would not be covered by the new rules, and SMEs would benefit from an extra year to comply than larger businesses.

Carbon compensation and removal

Eco-based claims exclusively on systems compensation of carbon should be prohibited. Businesses may, however, mention carbon removal and offsetting actions in their announcements, only if they have already reduced their emissions as much as possible and use these systems only for residual emissions. Carbon credits will need to be certified, such as those established under the Carbon Removal Certification Framework.

Parliament also proposed that green declarations on products contain dangerous substances will be permitted for the time beingand the Commission will soon evaluate whether they should be banned altogether.

The sanctions

Companies that break the rules could face sanctions, the deputies propose, as temporary exclusion from competitions public tenders, the loss of its revenues and fines equal to at least 4% of their turnover annual.

Over 50% of green labels are “false”

“Studies show that Over 50% of environmental claims are vague, misleading or unfounded“, recalled the rapporteur Andrus Ansip (Renew party, Estonia), reiterating “we cannot talk about satisfied consumers if every other green statement is false. We cannot talk about a level playing field for our entrepreneurs if some market players are cheating.”

“I believe that the directive adopted today is balanced: it will bring clarity to our consumers and is less burdensome for professionals than case-by-case assessment,” concluded the MEP.

The other speaker Cyrus Engerer (S&D party, Malta) said “the time has come to put an end to greenwashing. Our position puts an end to the proliferation of misleading green claims that have misled consumers for too long. We will make sure that the acompanies have the right tools to adopt authentic sustainability practices. European consumers want to make sustainable choices. Everyone offering products or services must ensure that their claims are scientifically verified.”