The upcoming EU Green Claims Directive will change how businesses communicate about the sustainability of their products and services. Unveiled in March 2023, the proposal is part of the Circular Economy Action Plan and complements other policies, such as those empowering consumers for the green transition.1
The proposal aims to protect consumers from greenwashing by making claims reliable, comparable, and verifiable across Europe. Companies can help substantiate their claims by independent testing of their products using recognized standards.
What are green claims?
“Green claims” are statements about the sustainability of a company, product, or service. Examples include:
“Packaging made of 30% recycled plastic.”
“Company’s environmental footprint reduced by 20% since 2015.”
“CO2 emissions linked to this product halved compared to 2020.”2
The proposed directive would set standards for the justification of green claims. It would apply to voluntary explicit environmental claims and sustainability labels that are not currently regulated by other EU acts, such as those that cover the EU Ecolabel and organic products.
The importance of combatting greenwashing
According to the Green Claims Directive proposal, greenwashing refers to making unclear or poorly substantiated environmental claims, including:
Displaying a sustainability label that is not based on a rigorous certification scheme or not established by public authorities.
Making generic environmental claims that are not backed by relevant performance data.
Making an environmental claim about the entire product when it only concerns a certain aspect of the product.
Presenting requirements imposed on everyone by law as a distinctive feature.3
A report by the European Commission says 53% of inspected environmental claims contained vague, misleading, or unfounded information.4 Studies have also found that 85% of consumers are unsatisfied with available environmental information5 and over half believe company claims are misleading.6
Justification of claims by the Green Claims Directive
The intention of the EU Green Claims Directive is not to dictate a single method to assess claims. Rather, it advocates for a life-cycle perspective and for claims to be based upon widely recognized scientific evidence, using accurate information and international standards. Any comparative environmental claims should be based on the same types of data, standards, and assumptions.7
There are hundreds of environmental labels in use in Europe, but many don’t have the rigorous standards of the EU Ecolabel or Nordic Swan. Therefore, the new legislation is also intended to set requirements for environmental certifications. Among other proposed rules, environmental labeling schemes must have requirements that are scientifically robust and relevant.8
Biobased content and biodegradability claims
The EU previously published a communication regarding biobased, biodegradable, and compostable plastics, addressing common green claims related to such materials. According to the document, companies should not make generic claims, such as using the term “bioplastic”, but should instead refer to the exact and measurable share of biobased content in the product. Similarly, biodegradability and compostability claims should explicitly specify the conditions in which degradation occurs and the time it takes.9
Measurlabs provides biobased content measurement and certification, as well as biodegradation and compostability testing in line with EU principles on the justification of green claims. Testing options cover compostability in an industrial compost and a home compost, as well as biodegradation in soil and marine environments.
While not yet law, the Green Claims Directive is widely expected to be passed. Considering the public’s skepticism towards many sustainability claims, preemptively adopting scientific testing and verification procedures can also be a competitive advantage. If you would like to learn more about how you can verify your green claims, please contact us through the form below or at email@example.com.
1 See the European Commission’s Green claims landing page.
2 These examples come from the European Commission’s Green claims landing page.
3 For a definition of greenwashing, see 1.2.(3) of the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (Green Claims Directive).
4 See the European Commission’s Impact Assessment Report on the proposed Green Claims Directive, page 10.
5 The European Commission cites consumer dissatisfaction from a 2019 study on page 2 of their Impact Assessment Report on the proposed Green Claims Directive.
6 See Kantar’s October 2023 release Concerns about greenwashing are pervasive across sectors.
7 A summary of the proposed requirements can be found on page 4 of the ‘Green claims’ directive: Protecting consumers from greenwashing overview.
8 The proposed requirements for environmental labeling schemes can be found in Article 8 of the Green Claims Directive.