EU Parliament Adopts New Greenwashing Law for Product Labeling

White bottle partially painted with green paint

(Credit: EU)

by | Jan 18, 2024

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The European Parliament has voted in favor of a new directive banning misleading environmental claims, particularly through product labeling and advertising.

The rules aim to enforce clear, trustworthy product labeling for consumers, banning the use of generalized environmental wording such as “environmentally friendly,” “natural,” or “biodegradable” without adequate proof. Such sustainability labeling will now have to follow official certification schemes established by public authorities.

The ruling also bans claims that a product has a neutral, reduced, or positive impact on the environment from emissions offsetting programs. A number of companies purchase carbon credits to offset their emissions, which often allows them to claim that their products or operations are “carbon neutral” without having to make emission reductions within their own business.

In an attempt to reduce waste and promote more long-lasting products, the ruling also requires that companies provide information on product durability.

Guarantee information on a given item will have to be made clearly visible, and the European Union cites plans to develop a standardized label to emphasize goods with extended guarantee periods. This rule will also ban unfounded durability claims, such as claiming a product will last for a certain amount of time without verification. Included in this grouping of rules is a ban on prompts to replace products earlier than needed or advertising goods as repairable when they are not.

Labeling Requirements Grow as Consumers Look for Sustainable Goods

The new EU ruling follows similar requirements recently established by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority along with updates to the SEC’s fund naming rules, both intended to target greenwashing.

Many companies have responded to an increasing trend of consumer preference for sustainable goods and environmentally-conscious brands. Yet, as this is a comparatively recent trend, definitions for sustainability have been unclear and lacked legal backing.

With lawsuits mounting over some companies’ environmental claims, new regulations should protect consumers from making unfounded purchasing decisions while also providing companies with a more clear-cut definition of how to make sustainability claims.

“This law will change the everyday lives of all Europeans,” said Biljana Borzan, a member of the EU Parliament. “We will step away from throwaway culture, make marketing more transparent, and fight premature obsolescence of goods. People will be able to choose products that are more durable, repairable, and sustainable thanks to reliable labels and advertisements. Most importantly, companies can no longer trick people by saying that plastic bottles are good because the company planted trees somewhere – or say that something is sustainable without explaining how.”

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