What are the new EU greenwashing rules?
The EU is taking bold action to ban greenwashing and protect consumers. By 2026, terms such as “climate neutral” or “climate positive” that rely on offsetting will be banned from the EU. The EU also voted to outlaw terms such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco” without the evidence to back them up.
The goals of the new legislation are to:
- Make green claims reliable, comparable and verifiable across the EU
- Protect consumers from greenwashing
- Contribute to creating a circular and green EU economy by enabling consumers to make informed purchasing decisions
- Help establish a level playing field when it comes to environmental performance of products
How are the EU’s greenwashing rules being implemented?
There are two key rule changes:
- Green Claims Directive. This sets a framework for sharing evidence to support voluntary green claims. It now requires companies to have evidence behind claims and for these claims to be verified by a third party before use in marketing.
- Consumer Rights Directive. The changes to consumer rules lean heavily on providing consumers with better information on a product’s durability and its circular economy features. For example, providing a repairability score and the availability of spare parts for repair.
Manufacturers and retailers have the flexibility to choose the most suitable format for communicating with customers, either on the product packaging or through their website. However, they must present it clearly and understandably or risk fines.
Who is impacted?
A lot of companies. These rules will affect all businesses wanting to claim in the EU. That includes international companies marketing to EU customers (only excluding SMEs below €2M in revenue).
How companies can avoid EU greenwashing rules?
The number one way to avoid any greenwashing issues is to have the facts behind a claim.
- Have the data to back up your claim. The EU’s research found that 40% of green claims have no supporting evidence. Now, companies must get the stats behind their claims and include primary or high-quality secondary data.
- Get the claims verified. Use an accredited third party to verify the claim and data before making any claims. If the claim is legitimate, they will issue a certificate of conformity that works EU-wide.
Examples of what you can’t say
To make sure you don’t fall foul of the greenwashing rules, let’s take a look at some examples of what you can’t say.
- “Environmentally friendly haircare”. You can no longer use general statements, claiming something as natural or good for the planet. You need the figures to back up why it’s good for the planet, the chances are, it’s probably not.
- “We’re carbon neutral”. Any claim made that relies on offsets to mitigate the impact of the product is no longer allowed. Companies like Easy Jet have already got into hot water with their offset strategy for flights. They’ve now ended their programme to focus on reductions.
Claims also need to be specific.
- Make sure the full impact is categorised, for example, saying this product has a footprint of xkgCO2e but only accounting for the packaging would be incorrect.
- Specify what any claims relate to. For example, if there has been a 50% reduction in emissions, specify where and how. If it’s a 50% reduction in energy use, say at which site.
- Businesses can’t make a claim for something that is the legal standard.
When will the rule be implemented?
Countries have two years to implement the Consumer Rights Directive and the Green Claims Directive ****into law. There is no time better than now for companies to get ahead of the curve and start measuring their impact now.