EU looks to prevent greenwashing with new law

Illustration in supermarket
© Copyright European Union 2023 – Lukasz Kobus

The European Commission has proposed a new law to clamp down on companies that make vague or misleading green claims about their products and brands.

The Green Claims Directive aims to tackle the issue of greenwashing, whereby companies deliberately make misleading, unreliable or confusing claims to promote their products as sustainable, green, or eco-friendly.   

As more beauty consumers demand to see a product’s green credentials before they purchase, there has been increased pressure for beauty and personal-care brands to be viewed in an environmentally friendly light.

The European Commission’s new proposal outlines the minimum rules for companies to back up their green claims:

  • Businesses will have to provide independent supporting evidence alongside their green claims, which will be regularly checked and enforced by a market surveillance authority. Any company that infringes this rule will face a penalty.
  • Sustainability labels will need to be more transparent and verified by an independent third party, such as EU Ecolabel.
  • Businesses will no longer be able to use any product rating system that isn’t based on EU rules.

The European Commission highlighted a study from 2020 that revealed that 53.3% of examined environmental claims in the EU were found to be vague, misleading, or unfounded, and that 0% were unsubstantiated. It said: “The absence of common rules for companies making voluntary green claims leads to ‘greenwashing’ and creates an uneven playing field in the EU’s market, to the disadvantage of genuinely sustainable companies.”