Tackling Greenwashing: A Look into the EU's Latest Legislation

Explore the EU's latest greenwashing laws

The European Union's recent initiatives against greenwashing are of great importance, especially for those in the garment industry. Two key legislative proposals, the EU Green Claims Directive and the EU Empowering Consumers in the Green Transition Initiative, stand out. These proposals, upon adoption, will evolve into binding legislative acts with significant implications for businesses across the EU.

EU Green Claims Directive

The EU Green Claims Directive, proposed in March 2023, targets businesses making environmental claims about their products or services in the EU market. This directive aims to ensure the accuracy and reliability of such claims, encouraging sustainable consumption and facilitating the operation of the internal market​​.

Key Aspects of the Green Claims Directive

Substantiation of Claims: Businesses must substantiate their environmental claims with scientific evidence, verified by an independent party.

Example: A clothing company claims their products are "100% organic cotton". To substantiate this claim, they must provide certification from an independent body like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) verifying the organic status of their cotton. Find out here how Transactional Certificates play a role in this- 

Transparency and Clarity: Claims must be clear, avoiding vague or ambiguous language.

Example: A beauty brand advertises a skincare product as "reducing carbon footprint". They should clearly state how this is achieved, such as using solar energy in production or carbon-neutral shipping methods, to avoid ambiguity.

Specificity and Relevance: Claims should be specific to certain environmental benefits.

Example: An electronics manufacturer claims their devices are "energy-efficient". They should specify what makes the products energy-efficient, like compliance with Energy Star standards or reduced power consumption compared to previous models.

Avoidance of Misleading Practices: Avoidance of claims that could mislead consumers.

Example: A food product is labeled as "eco-friendly packaging". The brand should ensure that the packaging is indeed made from sustainable materials and the entire lifecycle (production, disposal, recycling) is environmentally friendly to avoid misleading consumers.

Compliance with Environmental Standards: Claims should comply with recognized environmental standards.

Example: A furniture company claims their products are made from "sustainable wood". They need to comply with standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, proving the wood is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Role of the Verifier: A third-party body will be responsible for verifying compliance with the directive.

Example: A cleaning product company claims its products are "95% biodegradable". Before making this claim, a third-party verifier accredited by an EU Member State must verify the claim's accuracy in accordance with the Directive's requirements.

This directive encompasses a broad range of sectors, imposing a legal obligation for businesses to ensure their environmental claims are accurate and substantiated​​.

EU Empowering Consumers in the Green Transition Initiative

This proposal focuses on empowering EU consumers to adopt sustainable consumption patterns by combating unfair commercial practices like greenwashing. This initiative amends the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive​​.

Key Components of the Initiative

Definition of Misleading Claims: Practices considered misleading if they deceive consumers about a product’s environmental or social impact.

Example: A company markets a smartphone as "environmentally friendly" because it uses recycled materials. However, if the manufacturing process produces a high carbon footprint, the claim could be misleading as it overlooks the overall environmental impact.

Generic Sustainability Claims: Prohibiting unsubstantiated generic claims like ‘eco-friendly’ unless demonstrated by excellent environmental performance.

Example: A clothing brand labels their products as "green". To justify this claim, they must demonstrate excellent environmental performance, such as achieving a high score on a recognized sustainability index or possessing certifications like the EU Ecolabel.

Claims about Future Performance: Requirements for third-party validation and an action plan for future environmental performance claims.

Example: An automotive company claims that they will reduce emissions by 50% in the next five years. This claim must be backed by a third-party validated action plan outlining specific steps and a monitoring system to track progress.

Misleading Distinctive Features: Claims that feature common standards or legal requirements as distinctive benefits are considered unfair.

Example: A detergent brand claims its product is "phosphate-free" as a distinctive feature. However, if phosphates are already banned in detergents by law, this claim is misleading as it presents a legal requirement as a special benefit.

Product Comparison Rules: Transparency in methodology and up-to-date information for product comparisons.

Example: A home appliances manufacturer compares the energy efficiency of their refrigerators with those of another brand. For this comparison to be fair, they must use a transparent, standardized methodology and ensure the data used is current and relevant.

This directive aims to safeguard consumers from misleading information and to promote genuine sustainable practices​​.

Consequences and Compliance

Both directives underline the need for businesses to substantiate their environmental claims and maintain transparency in their communication. Non-compliance could lead to penalties, including fines based on a company’s annual turnover.

For the garment industry, particularly, claims like "recycled" or "organic" must be proven with factual evidence. TrusTrace’s Certified Material Compliance solution aids brands in linking purchase orders with certification information from the supply chain, thus ensuring the integrity of their claims​​. To learn more about sustainability trends in 2024, check out our article. 

The EU Green Claims Directive and the Empowering Consumers in the Green Transition Initiative represent significant strides towards more transparent, sustainable practices in the business world. These initiatives will not only protect consumers but also encourage companies to adopt genuine sustainable practices. As these legislative proposals progress, it's crucial for businesses to prepare for these changes to ensure compliance.

Stay informed and adapt to these upcoming changes for a more sustainable and transparent future. For more insights into these initiatives, we recommend visiting TrusTrace’s comprehensive Knowledge Hub.