“No more greenwashing!”

Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer hails the European Parliament’s adoption of the Green Claims Directive as an end to “the proliferation of misleading green claims that have deceived consumers for far too long”.

“It is time to put an end to greenwashing. The European Parliament’s position ends the proliferation of misleading green claims that have deceived consumers for far too long,” said Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D), after the European Parliament’s plenary session earlier this week adopted the institution’s position on establishing a verification and pre-approval system for environmental marketing claims to protect citizens from misleading ads. Parliament adopted its first reading position with 467 votes to 65, and 74 abstentions.

The Green Claims Directive would oblige companies to submit evidence about their environmental marketing claims before advertising products as “biodegradable”, “less polluting”, “water saving”, or having “bio-based content”. EU countries would have to assign verifiers to pre-approve the use of such claims, to protect buyers from unfounded and ambiguous advertising.

Engerer, who was the rapporteur of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) on this file, said that the European Parliament will ensure businesses have the right tools to embrace genuine sustainability practices, so that all those offering products or services guarantee their green claims are scientifically verified.

“European consumers want to make sustainable choices,” the MEP told The Journal, recalling that 56% of EU consumers consider the environment when purchasing goods and services. However, more than half of the green claims on the market are unreliable or sometimes even false. Addressing a press conference following the plenary vote, he described the adoption as “a victory for consumers, the environment, and genuine businesses”.

Press conference on Green Claims Directive – MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D). Photo: Philippe STIRNWEISS/European Union

For his part, the co-rapporteur on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Andrus Ansip (Renew, Estonia) told the press conference that “we cannot speak about happy consumers if every other green claim is false. We cannot talk about a level playing field for our entrepreneurs while some traders are cheating. I believe the adopted Green Claims Directive is balanced – it will bring clarity to our consumers and is less burdensome for traders than the claim-by-claim verification.”

Press conference on Green Claims Directive – MEP Andrus Ansip (Renew). Photo: Philippe STIRNWEISS/European Union

📺 Watch the press conference addressed by MEPs Engerer and Ansip, co-rapporteurs on Green Claims Directive, following the vote in plenary here.

Deadlines, penalties, and exemption for micro enterprises

The European Parliament wants claims and their evidence to be assessed within 30 days, but simpler claims and products could benefit from quicker or easier verification. Micro enterprises would not be covered by the new rules and, compared to larger businesses, SMEs would have an extra year to be in compliance. Companies that break the rules may face penalties, for example they could be temporarily excluded from public procurement tenders, lose their revenues and face fines of at least at 4% of their annual turnover.

Carbon offsetting and removals

Green claims based solely on carbon offsetting schemes will remain banned. Companies could, however, mention offsetting and carbon removal schemes in their ads if they have already reduced their emissions as much as possible and use these schemes for residual emissions only. The carbon credits of the schemes must be certified and be of high integrity, such as those established under the Carbon Removals Certification Framework.

Parliament also decided that green claims about products containing hazardous substances should remain possible for now, but the European Commission should assess in the near future whether they should be banned entirely.

Next step

The Green Claims Directive file will be followed up by the new Parliament after the European elections that will take place in June.

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Wrapping up

Cutting through the green smokescreen

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