New legislation is being prepared on how companies should verify their environmental promises and claims regarding their products. Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) believes that it is in the interest of both consumers and fair competition that marketing promises are fact-based and transparent. However, it is essential to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises can also cope with the new obligations. The verification of environmental claims must not become unreasonably complicated or expensive.
On March 22, the European Commission proposed common criteria against greenwashing and misleading environmental claims. These claims used in marketing should be verified by internationally recognized scientific methods. In addition, the regulation aims to improve the quality of numerous ecolabelling schemes. Member States should appoint a competent authority to verify the environmental claims and enforce the inspections and sanctions.
The directive proposal has the right objective of ensuring that consumers receive reliable, fact-based and transparent information about the environmental impact of products. Unfounded and incorrect environmental claims are not only misleading for consumers, but also distort competition. They cause a competitive disadvantage for companies that genuinely invest in measuring environmental impacts. It is also necessary that products imported from outside the EU will also be covered by the Green Claims directive.
The key issue is how the directive will work in practice – how expensive and detailed verification methods, external certifications or audits will need to be carried out. Thorough impact assessments are needed to find out this. The life cycle analyses required to determine the environmental impacts of products must be reasonable and focus on the essentials only.
It is crucial to have clear regulation in place to solve the actual problem of unfounded green claims but as crucial is to minimize additional costs. The obligations must not be so excessive that they take all the resources from the most important goal of reducing the environmental footprint of businesses and transitioning to a green economy.
The mentioned sanctions in the proposal also raise several concerns. Small and medium sized enterprises should not be punished for minor or unintentional mistakes. Indeed, we hope to restore consumers’ trust in environmental claims without overburdening companies.