The envi­ron­men­tal labels of products

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. 


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