The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a landmark directive aimed at tackling greenwashing and improving product information for consumers.
Passed on Wednesday (17 January) with an overwhelming 593 votes in favour, 21 against, and 14 abstentions, the new rules seek to revamp product labelling, outlaw deceptive environmental claims, and promote the production of more durable goods.
The directive comes in response to concerns that manufacturers are abusing the wave of ‘green sentiment’ from consumers with misleading marketing campaigns, also known as ‘greenwashing.
According to the EU Commission, three-quarters (75%) of products on the EU market boast implicit or explicit green claims. However, more than half of these claims are deemed vague, misleading, or unfounded. Furthermore, almost half of the 230 eco labels available in the EU lack robust verification procedures.
One of the key aspects of the directive involves forbidding environmental claims, such as terms like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘climate neutral’, or ‘eco’ without considerable evidence to back them up.
These terms can still be used, but companies will need to ensure they are accompanied by detailed evidence that explains how and why this is the case.
The directive also aims to curb environmental claims relying solely on carbon offsetting schemes, compelling companies to demonstrate more tangible and verifiable sustainability efforts.
Another pivotal goal of the new law is to shift the focus of both producers and consumers towards the durability of goods. Guarantee information must become more visible, and a new, standardised label will be introduced to highlight products with extended guarantee periods. Producers will also be unable to knowingly advertise unfounded durability claims (for example, saying that a washing machine will last for 5,000 washing cycles if this is not true under normal conditions).
Furthermore, the rules will ban unwarranted durability claims, discourage premature replacement of consumables (common in products like printer ink), and prevent goods from being marketed as repairable when they are not.
“This law will change the everyday lives of all Europeans. We will step away from throwaway culture, make marketing more transparent and fight premature obsolescence of goods,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Biljana Borzan.
“People will be able to choose products that are more durable, repairable and sustainable thanks to reliable labels and advertisements. Most importantly, companies can no longer trick people by saying that plastic bottles are good because the company planted trees somewhere – or say that something is sustainable without explaining how. This is a big win for all of us.”
The directive now also needs to receive final approval from the Council, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.
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