The European Council announced today the adoption of its negotiating position on new proposed rules requiring companies to substantiate and verify their environmental claims and labels, aimed at protecting consumers from greenwashing, which includes a ban on generic environmental claims, such as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘climate neutral.’

The Council’s position follows the release of the proposed “Directive on Green Claims” by the EU Commission in March 2023. The Commission said that the new rules were meant to address a need for reliable and verifiable information for consumers, highlighted by its recent study that found that more than half of green claims by companies in the EU were vague or misleading, and 40% were completely unsubstantiated. The stance by the Council will guide its negotiations on the rules with the EU Parliament, once Parliament adopt their own position.

The Council’s position includes several proposals aimed at protecting consumers against unfair practices, such as misleading green claims, with rules banning generic environmental claims unless the claims can be substantiated by a publicly accessible certification scheme, and allowing only sustainability labels that are based on official certification schemes, registered as certification marks or established by public authorities.

In response to a proposal by the Commission in its directive to introduce commitments from producers that products will maintain certain functions or performances during an indicated period, the Council also proposed creating a harmonized graphic format to provide consumers with guarantees of durability for specific goods, as well as a right of information obligations for products containing digital elements, such as information on how long consumers will benefit from software updates.

The Council’s position also extends the proposed transposition period for member states to adopt the laws once passed to 24 months, from the Commission’s proposed 18 months, in order to allow sufficient time for stated to adapt the changes in legislation.

Erik Slottner, Swedish Minister for Public Administration, said:

“The green transition is a collective effort, and the role of consumers’ behaviour will be paramount. We want to be sure that consumers are equipped to play that role with reliable information, protection against misleading advertisement, and easier ways to recycle or repair.”

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