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Europe outlaws greenwash

MEPs adopt new law banning greenwashing and misleading product information
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
In search of true beauty

The European Parliament has given its final green light to a directive that will improve product labelling and ban the use of misleading environmental claims.

The directive – adopted with 593 votes in favour, 21 against and 14 abstentions – seeks to protect consumers from misleading marketing practices and help them make better purchasing choices.

To achieve this, a number of problematic marketing habits related to greenwashing and the early obsolescence of goods will be added to the EU list of banned commercial practices.

Evidence for green claims

Most importantly, the new rules aim to make product labelling clearer and more trustworthy by banning the use of general environmental claims like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘climate neutral’ or ‘eco’ without proof.

The use of sustainability labels will also now be regulated, given the confusion caused by their proliferation and failure to use comparative data.

In the future, only sustainability labels based on official certification schemes or established by public authorities will be allowed in the EU.

The directive will also ban claims that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment because of emissions offsetting schemes.

Guarantees and durability

Another important objective of the new law is making producers and consumers focus more on the durability of goods.

In the future, guarantee information has to be more visible and a new, harmonised label will be created to give more prominence to goods with an extended guarantee period.

The new rules will also ban unfounded durability claims (for example saying that a washing machine will last for 5,000 washing cycles if this is not true under normal conditions), prompts to replace consumables earlier than strictly necessary (often the case with printer ink, for example), and presenting goods as repairable when they are not.

‘This law will change the everyday lives of all Europeans! 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. This is a big win for all of us!’

European Parliament’s rapporteur

The green claims directive

The directive now needs to receive final approval from the Council, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.

The new directive is meant to work together with the green claims directive, currently being discussed at committee stage in the European Parliament.

The upcoming green claims directive will be more specific and elaborate the conditions for using environmental claims in greater detail.

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