Transitioning to a more sustainable world hinges significantly on consumers making informed choices based on credible green claims. However, the prevalence of greenwashing, where products falsely project environmental responsibility without substantiated evidence, creates a bewildering maze of deceptive claims for consumers.

In the current landscape of emerging green claims, consumer trust in environmental claims is eroded due to the unreliability of such assertions. Research has shown that 94% of Europeans express personal importance for environmental protection, with 68% acknowledging that their consumption habits negatively impact the environment. To underscore the complexity of this issue, there are a staggering 230 sustainability labels and 100 green energy labels in the EU. Analysing these figures reveals that 53% of these green claims provide misleading information, 40% lack evidential support, and half remain unverified. To address this, consumers require reliable and verifiable information.

EU’S response: the green claims directive
Considering the alarming trend of green claims facing scrutiny and the recent adoption of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), the EU has put forth a new law addressing green assertions. The goal is to restore transparency and reliability in environmental claims, ultimately benefiting both consumers and businesses. Consumers will have access to more reliable information, enabling them to choose environmentally friendly products. Businesses, in turn, will be rewarded for genuine efforts to enhance the environmental sustainability of their products.

The directive on green claims aims to address four key aspects:

  • Firstly, it seeks to make green claims reliable, comparable, and verifiable throughout the EU.
  • Secondly, it aims to shield consumers from greenwashing.
  • Thirdly, it contributes to building a circular and green EU economy by empowering consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
  • Lastly, it works towards establishing a level playing field in terms of the environmental performance of products.

The aspect seeking to make green claims more reliable, comparable, and verifiable throughout the EU includes establishing clear criteria for companies to substantiate their environmental claims and labels. This is in line with another EU initiative, the ecodesign for sustainable products. This initiative introduces a framework to define eco-design requirements for specific product groups, aiming to notably enhance their circularity, energy performance, and other environmental sustainability aspects. Among these requirements is the inclusion of environmental foot-printing for products.

PEF-Methodology: standardising environmental impact assessment
The European Commission has put forward the Product Environmental Footprint methods as a standardised approach for gauging environmental performance. Companies aiming to label their products as environmentally friendly within the EU confront a multitude of methodological choices and initiatives.

The PEF method is a standardised EU approach grounded in Life Cycle Assessments, quantifying a product’s environmental impact by assessing its entire lifecycle — from raw material extraction to end-of-life. Utilising 16 environmental impact categories, the PEF method serves as the foundation for substantiating green claims about products in a rigorous, science-based manner.

For more information: idrn.eu