In March 2023, the European Commission — the EU’s executive body — published a proposal for a Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (Green Claims directive). The proposal is part of the Commission’s 2020 New Circular Economy Action Plan under the umbrella of its European Green Deal policy, which aims for the EU to be climate neutral by 2050.
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According to the Commission, European consumers are prevented from actively contributing to the green transition due to misleading commercial practices, such as ‘greenwashing’, a lack of trust in the robustness of green claims, and the proliferation of non-credible sustainability labels.
With relevance for advertisers, the proposal would create a mandatory pre-approval system for environmental labels and voluntary explicit environmental claims. New national environmental labels would be forbidden, and private environmental labels must justify their existence by providing utility beyond existing schemes.
The proposal would accompany changes already foreseen to the EU’s consumer protection legislation by last year’s Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition Directive. This, amongst other changes, aimed to prohibit the making of generic environmental claims without recognised excellent environmental performance as provided by the EU Ecolabel, a national equivalent label, or equivalent EU law. It also aimed to prohibit sustainability labels that weren’t based on certification schemes open to all traders. WFA provided feedback on this proposal last year.
In its submission, WFA has identified seven areas where the European Commission proposal could be improved to better deliver on its ambitions. WFA calls for:
- A consistent approach with the Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition Directive
- Clarity on methodologies required to substantiate categories of claims
- Robust guidance on the data necessary to certify claims
- Recognition of the role of private environmental labels in driving the green transition
- A streamlined ex-ante approval system that assists rather than inhibits the green transition, including: standardised assessment forms, a fast-track procedure, and a 30-day deadline for processing by independent verifiers.
- A realistic transposition timeframe
- Recognition of the role of advertising self-regulation
Download WFA’s feedback to the Commission here.