The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled the proposed “Directive on Green Claims,” a new set of rules requiring companies to substantiate and verify their environmental claims and labels, aimed at protecting consumers from greenwashing.

In a statement announcing the launch of the new proposed rules, the Commission said:

“Under today’s proposal, consumers will have more clarity, stronger reassurance that when something is sold as green, it actually is green, and better quality information to choose environment-friendly products and services.”

According to the Commission, the new rules address a need for reliable and verifiable information for consumers, in light of a recent study by the Commission finding that more than half of green claims by companies in the EU were vague or misleading, and 40% were completely unsubstantiated.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said:

“Green claims are everywhere: ocean-friendly t-shirts, carbon-neutral bananas, bee-friendly juices, 100% CO2-compensated deliveries and so on. Unfortunately, way too often these claims are made with no evidence and justification whatsoever. This opens the door to greenwashing and puts companies making genuinely sustainable products at a disadvantage.”

Areas targeted by the new rules include explicit claims made by companies such as “packaging made of 30% recycled plastic” or “ocean friendly sunscreen,” covering all voluntary claims about environmental impacts, aspects or performance of products, services or the business itself.

The new rules propose minimum requirements for businesses to substantiate, communicate and verify their green claims. According to the proposals, companies will be required to ensure the reliability of their voluntary environmental claims, which will need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence. Companies will be required to identify environmental impacts relevant to their products, and also to identify any possible trade-offs.

The rules also aim to address the proliferation of private environmental labels. According to the Commission, at least 230 different green labels are currently in use, leading to consumer confusion and distrust. Under the new rules, new labelling schemes won’t be allowed unless developed at EU level, with new schemes approved only if they demonstrate greater environmental ambition than existing ones. Environmental labels must also be reliable, transparent, independently verified and regularly reviewed.

The Commission said that smaller companies with fewer than 10 employees and less than €2 million in revenue will be exempt from the obligations of the new proposals.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:

“The proposals tabled by the Commission today will protect businesses and consumers from harmful greenwashing practices and tackle the proliferation of labels. We want to help consumers become more confident about their choices and ensure that those companies that make genuine efforts to reduce their impacts on nature, resource use, climate emissions or pollution are rewarded.”

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