A directive on environmental claims is under development at the European Commission. The proposed regulations include minimum requirements for substantiating and communicating voluntary environmental claims and ecolabels as part of companies’ business practices. Currently, the European Commission’s proposal on the matter has been forwarded to the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee(IMCO) and the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety(ENVI) for examination. The Environmental Claims Directive was described in a previous issue of Water Matters: Green Claims Directive as a step toward proven green choices and a fight against greenwashing.

What is the main purpose of the Environmental Claims Directive?

The Environmental Claims Directive aims to raise the level of environmental protection and contribute to accelerating the ecological transition to a green and climate-neutral closed-loop economy in the EU. In addition, the proposed regulations are designed to protect consumers and businesses from fraudulent greenwashing, or “greenwashing,” and to enable consumers to contribute to accelerating the environmental transition by making informed purchasing decisions based on credible environmental claims and ecolabels.

According to European Commission research, companies operating in the European Union often make voluntary environmental claims, but fail to provide evidence and substantiation for those claims. 2020 Commission study. showed that 53.3 percent. of the declarations analyzed were unclear or misleading, and 40 percent. were completely unfounded.

Requirements for substantiating environmental claims

The proposal for a directive on environmental claims requires that Member States be required to adopt provisions to ensure that the substantiation of environmental claims is based on an assessment that meets selected minimum criteria in order to avoid misleading claims, namely that the assessment underlying the substantiation of claims:

  • presented the importance of impact, aspects and effectiveness from a life cycle perspective;
  • took into account all relevant aspects and impacts to assess effectiveness;
  • indicated whether the statement in question contained accurate information about the entire product or only a part of it (about the entire life cycle or its specific stages, about all of the entrepreneur’s activities or only some of them);
  • showed that the statement was not equivalent to the requirements imposed by the law;
  • included information on whether the environmental performance of a product is significantly better than is generally accepted;
  • determined whether positive effects lead to a significant worsening of another impact;
  • included a requirement for transparent reporting of greenhouse gas offsets;
  • included accurate primary and secondary information.

Under the proposed regulations, micro-enterprises (i.e., companies employing fewer than 10 people and with an annual turnover of less than €2 million) will be exempt from the aforementioned requirements, unless they wish to obtain a certificate of conformity for the environmental statement. Then it is necessary for them to fulfill the requirements in question.

Directive on environmental claims – impact on the environment

In the European Green Deal, the Commission pledged to empower consumers to make more informed choices and play an active role in the green transition. One of the key goals of the environmental claims proposal is to raise the level of environmental protection and contribute to accelerating the green transition to a green and climate-neutral closed-loop economy in the EU.

The proposal for environmental claims supports the goals of the European Green Deal and contributes to solving three crises: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. The proposal also reinforces overarching strategies, such as the Pollution Eradication Action Plan or the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and complements sector-specific strategies, such as the Farm-to-Table strategy, or climate change adaptation issues, to increased water efficiency and reuse.

The impact of the proposed legislation on consumers

With the new regulations, EU consumers will:

  • had access to reliable information, including on the premature shortening of product life, so that they could make the right environmental choices;
  • better protected from fraudulent environmental claims;
  • better informed, even before purchase, about the possibility of repairing products.

When will the directive on environmental claims take effect?

Once the legislative work is completed, a vote on the adoption of the new legislation is expected to take place in mid-February 2024, according to the schedule. Member states will have two years to transpose the directive.

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