- The proposed Green Claims Directive requires companies to substantiate claims they make about the environmental impacts, aspects or performance of their products and organisations using robust, science-based and verifiable methods.
- Businesses will also be subject to communication obligations, which will require them to make available to consumers (e.g., via a weblink), together with their claims, information on the product and on the corresponding substantiation of the claims.
- Businesses will have to bear the cost of substantiating their claims. This may prove costly since the Green Claims Directive requires robust, science-based evidence of the positive environmental impacts, aspects or performance of the products that are the subject of the claim, based on a life-cycle approach.
- Businesses will have to carry out a thorough assessment of their existing and future green claims, with a view to amending them if necessary, because non-compliant claims will have to be withdrawn.
- Conformity with the substantiation requirements laid out in the Directive will have to be certified by a third-party body. Each EU member state will have a national third-party conformity assessment body (so-called “verifier”) in charge of undertaking the verification before the environmental claim is made public. The verifier will issue, where appropriate, a certificate of conformity certifying that the explicit environmental claim complies with the requirements of the Green Claims Directive. This certificate will be recognised across the EU, but will not be binding as such on courts.
- Competent authorities responsible for the enforcement of the proposed Directive will be granted extensive investigative and remedial powers, including the power to impose penalties such as fines, the maximum amount of which should be set at least at 4 % of the company’s annual turnover in the member state(s) concerned, in order to discourage non-compliance.
- Businesses would be well advised to closely monitor legislative developments on the topic of the fight against greenwashing as some member states will not wait for the adoption of the proposed Directive before adopting the requisite measures.
The fight against greenwashing is a centrepiece of the European Green Deal and deemed key to delivering on the ecological transition objective enshrined in it.
On 22 March 2023, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on the substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (the Green Claims Directive). The Green Claims Directive requires companies to substantiate claims they make about the environmental aspects or performance of their products and organisations using robust, science-based and verifiable methods.
The objective of the Green Claims Directive is twofold. By tackling false and misleading green claims, and ensuring that buyers receive reliable, comparable and verifiable information, the Green Claims Directive is expected to provide consumers with increased clarity and better quality information to allow them to choose environment-friendly products and services. The Green Claims Directive will thus empower consumers to make better informed and more sustainable decisions, thereby reducing the risk of greenwashing.
The Green Claims Directive will also benefit businesses, as those that make genuine efforts to improve the environmental sustainability of their products will be more easily recognised and rewarded by consumers and able to boost their sales. By establishing a level playing field when it comes to information about the environmental performance of products, the Green Claims Directive will also contribute to reducing the risk of unfair competition.
An “environmental claim” is defined as any message or representation, which is not mandatory under EU law or national law, including text, pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, including labels, brand names, company names or product names, in the context of a commercial communication, which states or implies that a product or trader has a positive or no impact on the environment or is less damaging to the environment than other products or traders, respectively, or has improved their impact over time.
So-called “greenwashing”, which the Green Claims Directive aims at combating, involves making unclear or not well-substantiated environmental claims.