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The European Union’s executive branch announced Wednesday that it plans to crack down on companies that place false or misleading “green” labels on their products.

The European Commission aims to protect consumers from products boasting “deceptive environmental claims” – a marketing ploy known as “greenwashing”. A commission study An examiner of the increasingly popular green label found that more than half of environmental claims were “vague, misleading or unfounded” and 40% were “unfounded”.

The proposed new rules, called “Green Claims InstructionsAccording to the proposal, the aim is to set a standard criterion for the more than 200 voluntary sustainability labels used in the EU, which are currently “subject to varying levels of robustness, supervision and transparency”.

“We want, first of all, that consumers have access to reliable information that is consistent and verifiable,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Environment Commissioner, during the presentation of the proposal on Wednesday. “We want environmental labels that are more transparent and certainly easier to understand.”

The European Commission’s announcement comes weeks after the publication of Deforestation Inc. a cross border check led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which revealed similar problems with stamping out the “green label” forestry products, The investigation revealed how a lightly regulated sustainability industry overlooks forest destruction and human rights violations while awarding environmental certification.

auditors and so called certification firms The investigation found that products linked to deforestation, entry into conflict zones and other abuses are often validated. They help clients of certificate firms Produce and promote teak yacht deckWorldwide markets high-end furniture and household products such as paper towels and coffee filters, among others.

The proposed new directive would require companies that want to label their “green” products to undergo independent verification of their environmental claims in EU countries. The proposal states that information must be available to consumers in an accessible manner, and that “obvious” claims must be substantiated by scientific evidence. Companies violating the rules will be fined.

Climate-related claims such as “carbon neutral,” “net-zero” or “100% CO2 compensation,” “are particularly prone to being vague and ambiguous,” according to the commission’s report. “Such statements are often based on the ‘offsetting’ of greenhouse gas emissions through ‘carbon credits’ generated outside the company’s value chain, for example from forestry or renewable energy projects.”

The proposal states that the methodologies that support offset claims vary widely and are not always transparent, accurate or consistent.

Under the new rules, adding an eco-label on products will remain voluntary. But if companies choose to do so, they will have to comply with the new guidelines or face fines, temporary exclusion from public procurement processes and denial of public funds. The new rules will not apply to the EU’s official ecolabel, as it is already subject to a third-party verification standard.

The proposed rule could also affect multinational corporations and businesses that are not in the European Union, as they would have to comply with the requirements if their environmental claims target European consumers.

The Green Claims Directive proposal will need the approval of the European Parliament and Council to become law.

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