The 27-bloc seeks to curb greenwashing on everyday goods through stricter environmental labelling regulations. Companies violating the new rules risk hefty fines and could see their products removed from the market.
The European Commission proposed new rules to crack down on businesses making false or misleading environmental claims, a practice known as greenwashing.
According to Wednesday’s proposal, the key objectives of the new regulations include increasing environmental protection and accelerating the green transition towards a circular economy, protecting consumers and companies by facilitating more eco-friendly choices, as well as improving the legal certainty of environmental claims and boosting the economic competitiveness among businesses that are trying to increase their environmental sustainability.
Under the new regulations, companies making “green claims” about their products and services will have to follow norms on how they “substantiate” and “communicate” them. Moreover, such claims “will need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence.”
If found breaching the new rules – which apply to all products and services on sale in the EU single market, excluding financial services such as banking and investment products – companies will face hefty financial penalties and might even see their products removed from the market.
The EU is also seeking to bring clarity to environmental labels, cutting down on new labelling scheme “unless developed at EU level.” The Commission fears that the “at least 230” existing environmental labels can fuel “consumer confusion and distrust.”
According to a 2020 study by the European Commission, 53.3% of 150 examined environmental claims in the EU were found to be “vague, misleading or unfounded,” – including statements such as “green and “nature’s friend” – while 40% were described as “unsubstantiated” and thus likely to deceive consumers.
“Over the past five years we’ve seen an increase in greenwashing,” EU Environment Minister Virginijus Sinkevicius said in an interview. “We want to make sure those companies who claim to be green really are. Consumers don’t want to be misled.”
Wednesday’s proposal – which will now need the European Parliament’s and the 27 member states’s approval – is the EU’s latest attempt to regulate the market and improve the environmental sustainability and circular economy as part of the European Green Deal, an ambitious package of measures to meet the EU climate change goals of cutting at least 55% of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050. Last year, the Commission proposed new regulations targeting sustainable textiles and packaging waste.
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