In a significant move aimed at protecting consumers from deceptive environmental claims, the European Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favor of new regulations that require companies to provide evidence and validation for their green labels and assertions.
The proposed rules put forth by the Parliament serve as their stance during negotiations on the "Directive on Green Claims" presented by the EU Commission in March 2023. The Commission recognized the necessity for reliable and verifiable information for consumers, following a recent study that revealed over half of the green claims made by companies in the EU were misleading or ambiguous, and 40% lacked any substantiation.
The Commission's proposal outlines the minimum requirements for companies to substantiate, communicate, and verify their environmental claims. It mandates that companies ensure the credibility of their voluntary environmental assertions, which must be independently validated and supported. Additionally, businesses are expected to identify the relevant environmental impacts of their products and acknowledge any potential trade-offs.
One noteworthy addition proposed by the EU Parliament is the prohibition of green claims, such as "carbon or climate neutrality," that are solely based on carbon offsetting schemes.
The Parliament's position also introduces a requirement for these claims to be accompanied by quantified and science-based targets. Moreover, companies must provide a detailed and realistic implementation plan outlining their commitment to achieving future environmental performance. This plan should be reinforced by tangible targets, a budget, and resource allocation.
The Commission's proposal already includes a ban on generic claims like "environmentally friendly," "carbon neutral," and "green" if they lack supporting evidence. The Parliament's amendments expand this list to include terms such as "natural," "animal-friendly," "cruelty-free," "sustainable," "deforestation-free," "plastic neutral," and "plastic-free."
Furthermore, the proposed regulation addresses product design features that intentionally promote early obsolescence. It prohibits deliberately designing products with a limited lifespan to render them non-functional or obsolete prematurely. The legislation also disallows claims of durability when products do not possess it and falsely presenting products as repairable when they are not. The Parliament's amendments also require companies to inform consumers of any repair restrictions.
The European Council had previously adopted its negotiating position on the directive earlier this month, aligning it with the Parliament's stance. With both positions agreed upon, negotiations on the final rules can commence shortly.
Following the vote, Biljana Borzan, the rapporteur for the Parliament's environment, public health, and food safety committee from Croatia, emphasized that manufacturers would no longer benefit from producing goods that break down immediately after the warranty period ends.
Borzan stated, "Product labels will inform citizens which goods are guaranteed to last longer, and producers whose goods are more durable will profit. The era of false environmental claims will come to an end, as only certified and substantiated ecological claims will be permitted."
The adoption of the proposal paves the way for negotiations between the Parliament and member states to shape the final content and wording of the directive.