Proposal for a directive on environmental claims

20. 12. 2023

Late last year, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new packaging regulation. A few months later, in March 2023, the Commission also adopted a proposal for a Directive on environmental claims, which addresses the issues of greenwashing and consumer and environmental protection.

The absence of common rules for companies making voluntary green claims leads to greenwashing. “Greenwashing” occurs when companies or organizations mislead consumers about their environmental behaviour through various marketing activities.

The draft directive sets out new criteria aimed at preventing companies from making misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products and services. Currently, it is difficult for consumers to navigate the multitude of environmental claims made by companies’ products or services. Companies can thus create false impressions of environmental benefits and impacts, which can mislead consumers.

The main objectives of the proposal on environmental claims are therefore:

  • raise the level of environmental protection and contribute to accelerating the green transformation towards a circular, green and climate-neutral economy in the EU,
  • Protect consumers and companies from environmentally misleading claims and enable consumers to contribute to accelerating the green transformation by making informed purchasing decisions based on credible environmental claims and eco-labels
  • improve legal certainty regarding environmental claims and the level playing field in the internal market, strengthen the competitiveness of economic operators seeking to improve the environmental sustainability of their products and activities, and create opportunities.

The proposal for a directive therefore aims to ensure that environmental labels and claims build credibility, which should lead to more informed consumer purchasing and protect consumers from greenwashing. Along with building credibility, it should also increase the competitiveness of businesses and companies that seek to emphasise the sustainability and environmental credentials of the services and products they offer.

There are 230 sustainability labels and 100 green energy labels in the EU, with very different levels of transparency. Half of these labels offer no or poor verification. A 2020 study found that up to 53% of environmental claims provide misleading, unclear or unsubstantiated information.

In order to ensure that only reliable and verifiable environmental information on products and services reaches consumers, the draft Directive includes criteria for companies to demonstrate their environmental claims and labels. The proposal also sets out requirements for environmental claims and labels to be verified by an accredited independent verifier to ensure their credibility and transparency.

The draft Directive does not include environmental claims already covered by existing EU legislation, such as the EU Ecolabel or the organic food logo, on the grounds that current legislation already ensures the reliability of these claims.

The proposal on environmental claims supports the objectives of the European Green Deal and contributes to tackling the triple crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. It contributes to the fight against environmentally misleading claims, which has been identified as a priority in the Commission’s new action plan for a circular economy and in the New Agenda for Consumers.

The proposal on environmental claims is also linked to other EU policies, e.g.:

  • Eco-design of sustainable products
  • A farm-to-table strategy for sustainable food systems

The aim of these initiatives is to create a coherent policy framework to help the EU make sustainable goods, services and business models the norm and shift consumer consumption towards more sustainable ones.