On 22 March, the European Commission published a proposal for a new Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (the “Green Claims Directive”). The purpose of the Directive is to prevent greenwashing by establishing a harmonised set of rules for substantiating voluntary claims that indicate that a product presents environmental benefits.
The proposal requires that an explicit environmental claim (defined as a claim that is in textual form or contained in an environment label) is based on recognised scientific evidence and technical knowledge; demonstrates the significance of impacts, aspects and performance from a life-cycle perspective; takes into account all aspects and impacts to assess the performance; demonstrates whether the claim is accurate for the whole product or only for parts of it; demonstrates that the claim is not equivalent to requirements imposed by law; provides information on whether the product performs environmentally significantly better than what is common practice; identifies whether a positive achievement leads to significant worsening of another impact; requires greenhouse gas offsets to be reported in a transparent manner; and includes accurate information.
The proposal, if approved, would also set up specific requirements for comparative claims. The use of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) as the standard methodology for substantiation, as stated in the Explanatory memorandum, cannot be applied to all products across all categories and has therefore not been included as the go-to methodology. Different types of claims would be needed for different levels of substantiation. The proposed directive would not require a single method nor the conducting of a full life-cycle analysis for each type of a claim.
Other points to note include the fact that the information supporting an environmental claim shall be made available to consumers, for example, by printing a QR code or a web link on the product concerned; that the environmental information and its evidence should be verified before publication by an independent accreditation body, which issues a so-called certificate of conformity and that environmental claims must be updated on an ad hoc basis and checked for accuracy after 5 years at the latest.
The proposal is undergoing public consultation and interested parties have until 22nd June to submit comments (this deadline could be further extended).