Europe defines anti-greenwashing rules in new directive

By Julia Wray | Published: 16-Feb-2024

Penalties for breaking green claims rules include a proposed fine of 4% of annual turnover

Greenwashing has a clearer definition for companies subject to the European Union’s new marketing claims ban. 

The European Parliament’s joint Internal Market and Environment committees have adopted their position on rules to comply with the EU ban on greenwashing. 

Called the green claims directive, it complements the already approved ban on greenwashing by clarifying what kind of information companies have to provide to justify their environmental marketing claims.

MEPs agreed with the Commission that companies must submit environmental marketing claims for verification before using them.

The claims will then be assessed by accredited verifiers within 30 days.

Companies who break the rules may be excluded from procurements, lose their revenues and face a fine of at least at 4% of their annual turnover.

MEPs have recommended that the Commission draw up a list of less complex claims and products that could benefit from faster or simpler verification.

They have added that it should also decide whether green claims about products containing hazardous substances should remain possible. 

Micro enterprises will likely be excluded from the new obligations, while SMEs will get one extra year before applying the rules.

Carbon offsetting – what can be claimed?

The European Parliament further confirmed the recent EU ban on green claims based solely on carbon offsetting schemes. 

But it specified that companies could still mention offsetting schemes if they have already reduced their emissions as much as possible, and use these schemes for residual emissions only. 

The carbon credits of the schemes must be certified, as established under the Carbon Removals Certification Framework.

Special rules also apply to comparative claims, for instance ads comparing two different goods – including if the two products are made by the same producer. 

Although, for this to be valid, the same methods must be used to compare relevant aspects of the products. 

And claims that products have been improved cannot be based on data more than five years old.

The Internal Market Committee’s Andrus Ansip called the solution proposed by the committees “balanced”, adding that it “brings more clarity to consumers and at the same time is, in many cases, less burdensome for businesses than the solution originally proposed by the Commission”.

“Our agreement on this text ends the proliferation of deceitful green claims which have tricked consumers for far too long,” said  Cyrus Engerer, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the Environment Committee.

“It also ensures that businesses have the right tools to embrace genuine sustainability practices.”

The draft report will be put to a vote at an upcoming plenary session and will constitute Parliament’s position at first reading, which is expected to be in March 2024.

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