The European Commission wants to require companies in Europe to back up climate-friendly claims about their products with evidence, under draft rules to stamp out misleading labels for products from clothing to cosmetics.
The European Union is about to propose new requirements on companies that sell goods in Europe with labels like natural climate neutral or recycled content. A draft of the proposal said that a company must carry out a science-based assessment to prove it lives up to the claim, or have it verified under an environmental labelling scheme.
An accredited verifier would need to check the claim before a company can use it publicly. Companies that make climate-friendly claims without proof could face financial penalties.
Greenwashing is rampant in Europe, according to the EU's own analysis. A Commission analysis of 150 claims about products' environmental characteristics in 2020 found that 53 per cent of them provided vague, misleading or unfounded information. The rules aim to help consumers identify which products are eco-friendly and give proper credit to companies whose products have real environmental benefits.
The proposal would cover all consumer products sold in the EU unless they are covered by existing EU laws that regulate certain labels - for example, organic-labelled food.
Campaign groups welcomed the draft plan as a step forward from the largely unregulated proliferation of green claims today. They warned that the proposal would give companies more power to choose what data or impacts they use to assess a claim, instead of setting a firm Europe-wide standard for all.
You could have one product assessed by two different methodologies, and that would give you completely different results," said Margaux Le Gallou, programme manager at the non-profit Environmental Coalition on Standards.
Companies that claim to have carbon credits offset their own environmental impact must disclose this, according to a requirement.
Before it can apply a final law, the EU countries and the European Parliament must negotiate and approve it before it can apply - a process that typically takes more than a year.