European Parliament adopts directive on green claims

On 12 March 2024 the European Parliament approved a proposed directive on green claims (the Green Claims Directive) during the first reading. Green claims refer to the use of statements creating an impression that a product or the activity of a trader is less damaging to the environment, including the climate. These statements may cover environmental impacts in general or may be related to specific releases to parts of the environment, such as air, water, soil or underground.

The Directive was adopted by a majority of 467 votes in favour and 65 votes against. This is a significant legislative step towards regulation of environmental claims and use of environmental labels, in particular in those situations which are not already within the scope of EU legislation. The Directive introduces a number of requirements for businesses intending to make environmental claims towards consumers, including a requirement that green claims must be based on a life cycle assessment of the product in question. Verification from a competent national authority will be a requirement for support of these claims. The new Green Claims Directive is to contribute to accelerating the green transition, protecting consumers and businesses against misleading environmental claims, and thereby also ensuring a level playing field on the EU internal market.

The Directive also introduces requirements for comparative advertising, which are to ensure, among other things, that data on the compared products have been acquired in the same manner, cover the same stages of the supply chain, and that the same conditions apply. Also, businesses must publish such information digitally or physically. Businesses which do not comply with the requirements of the Directive risk exclusion from public procurement processes, limited access to public funding and confiscation of income, and fines. The minimum amount of fines for infringements with an EU dimension is set at the level of 4% of the trader's total annual turnover in the Member State.

The Directive is based on and supplements EU's recent ban on greenwashing and misleading environmental claims, demonstrating a clear effort to eliminate misleading practices. It indicates a tightening directed at greenwashing and introduces sanctions against those found guilty of making misleading green claims. Following the European Parliament's adoption of its position in connection with the first reading, implementation of the Directive will continue under the auspices of the new parliament, which will be formed following the coming parliamentary election in June, together with the European Council. The obligations specified in the Directive are expected to enter into force two years after the final adoption of the Directive.

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