Not everything can be called green
The subject of the draft are “voluntary green claims”, which can be roughly translated as “voluntary environmental claims”. These are environmental statements that are not mandatory under Union or national law, are made in the context of commercial communications, and state that a product or trader has a positive or no impact on the environment or has less negative implications for the environment than other traders or their products.
The core element of the draft is the obligation of member states to ensure that environmental claims are based on widely accepted scientific methods and take into account the state of the art in research and technology and relevant international standards. In all other respects, the specifications are detailed, aiming to use the actual environmental impact of companies and products over their life cycle when assessing the accuracy of promotional environmental claims. This is intended to promote free and informed consumer choices in favour of products that are actually more friendly to the environment. Within this framework, the use of particularly hazardous substances such as carcinogenic or mutagenic substances is to be accompanied by a general ban on the use of “green claims”.
In principle, all environmental claims made in commercial communications to consumers concerning a product or trader are covered by the Directive, unless another act of EU law already provides a comparable level of certainty.
In addition, sustainability seals (environmental labels) will in the future require prior verification by independent bodies that verify the awards and compliance after awards are given. In the course of this, the decision-making principles of the assessment process must be disclosed. The overall performance of a product or trader in terms of sustainability can be expressed by a score. However, only labels that adopt the EU Commission’s calculation method for the footprint or that have been created in accordance with EU law are allowed to display such a footprint.
Green claims must also be reviewed for accuracy every five years. In addition, companies will be required to review their claims if there is a change in the particular calculation method used.
In the area of market surveillance, the competent national authorities are to have facilitated access to all relevant documents of the assessment process, be able to regularly review awarded labels and implemented green claims, and impose sanctions in the case of non-compliance.
The draft is welcome as another necessary milestone in implementing the requirements of the Green Deal, as it will make it easier for consumers to behave in an environmentally responsible manner. In the future, companies that ascribe favourable properties to themselves or their products in terms of life cycle assessment will run a significantly higher risk of being prosecuted by competitors and market surveillance authorities, if these statements cannot be verified and backed up with data. The administrative burden on companies is expected to increase; in return, it can be assumed that they will be able to gain a significant competitive advantage through accurate and lawful use of green claims.back