EU Law Greenwashing

Unveiling the Green Curtain: European Parliament Takes Firm Action to Combat Greenwashing and Safeguard Consumers

  • Victoria Weber

On January 17th 2024, the European Parliament approved the ‘Green Claims Directive’, which aims to improve product labelling and to ban misleading environmental or ‘green’ claims. Such decision represents a significant milestone towards the promotion of sustainable practices and consumer protection within the European Union. It is important to stress out that Member States will have 24 months to incorporate the new legal text into their national law. After that, the measures established by the new legal framework will come into effect 6 months later.

The Directive, which was approved with an overwhelming majority vote, reflects the Parliament’s unwavering commitment to combat greenwashing and empower consumers to make informed decisions concerning products introduced in the market. The new legislation encourages companies to adopt more sustainable practices and reduce the environmental impact of their products and production processes. This will be achieved by increasing the pressure on businesses to provide evidence-based and substantiated environmental claims, thereby incentivizing the investment in sustainable innovation and practices.

In order to protect consumers from misleading marketing tactics and provide them with clearer and more accurate information about the environmental impact of products, the new legislation prohibits the use of vague, generic and unsubstantiated environmental claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural,” “green product” and others. In this sense, the use of labels “based on a certification scheme or not established by public authorities constitutes an unfair commercial practice in all circumstances. This means that the ‘self-certified’ sustainability labels, where no third-party verification and regular monitoring takes place as regards compliance with the underlying requirements of the sustainability label are prohibited.”.

Such prohibition also extends to claims related to the reduction of carbon emissions (e.g a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment related to carbon offsettings), without proper and verifiable documents to support them. According to the new Directive, the use of such claims is only possible after either a comprehensive assessment over the real environmental impacts, the validation of evidence by official certification schemes or verification by public authorities within the EU.The legal framewrok emphasize that the transparency and credibility of information would empower consumers to make more clear and sustainable decisions, fact that also could have greater impact on the market and pressure companies to avoid misleading information.

By providing accurate, reliable and certified information about the environmental impact of products, companies build trust with consumers, therefore enhancing their own market reputation. Overall, the focus on transparency and accountability is a significant development in the field of product labelling and advertising, as the emphasis on providing reliable information to consumers enables a more informed and responsible approach to consumption, which is essential for building a sustainable future.

Albeit the Directive signifies a big step forward considering greenwashing prohibition, the new legal text presents some limitations which are relevant to mention. For instance, although the Directive’s legal text promises a whole new “regulation” approach regarding misleading claims, some aspects, like certification schemes and inspection procedures, are still pending some comprehensive details. The legal text sets forth the definition of official certification schemes[1] and robust criteria related to it, but no broader information over the specific proceedings that need to be followed nor how the inspection of the public authorities regarding such prohibition should be conducted.

Additionallty, the technical complexity of certification schemes, requires inspectors and regulators to either possess specialized knowledge and skills or the need for exhaustive training and development of standards in this sense. In this scenario, one of main issues related to the new legislation is the the lack of standardization, which could impact the effective monitoring of the single market.

On another note, the Directive presents a compelling approach on the significance of product durability, thereby promoting and fostering the manufacturing and acquisition of durable goods. The adoption of these new legal measures intends to reduce waste and to minimize the environmental effects associated with the production and disposal of consumer products.

At its core, the ‘Green Claims Directive’ is about i) preventing greenwashing, while holding corporations accountable for their ‘green’ claims and packaging, and also ii) promoting environmental sustainability while empowering consumers to make conscious choices, fomenting a shift towards more responsible consumption patterns. By equipping consumers with accurate information about the environmental impact of products and incentivizing the purchase of durable and sustainable goods, the goal is to catapult economies towards a more sustainable economy. This not only creates opportunities for businesses to innovate and differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market, but it also benefits the environment as a whole.

While this new legislation represents a significant step forward in the fight against greenwashing and the promotion of sustainability, challenges remain. Since implementation and enforcement will be the key to ensure that such legal framework achieves its intended objectives, the issues related to the lack of standards and inspection could be an obstacle.By establishing criteria for transparent and responsible marketing practices, greenwashing regulation is not only shaping consumer behavior, but also influencing corporate conduct on a global scale, pressuring Governments and corporations to enact in this field.

In conclusion, while this new legislation represents a significant step forward in the fight against greenwashing and the promotion of sustainability, some challenges remain. Since implementation and enforcement will be key to ensure that such legal framework achieves its intended objectives, the issues related to the lack of concrete standards of inspection could be an obstacle for effective transpositions and applicabilty.

Overall, the Directive represents a landmark achievement in the pursuit of consumer protection and sustainability. By banning misleading environmental claims, promoting product durability, and empowering consumers to make more informed choices, the ‘Green Claims Directive’ sets a new standard for transparency and accountability in the marketplace. However, from a practical standpoint, the lack of standardization regarding inspection and certification procedures could negatively impact the fulfillment of the legislation’s goals. In this sense, the European bodies need to provide further clarifications regarding such aspects in order to establish a robust greenwashing frame.


[1]      “means a third-party verification scheme that certifies that a product, process or business complies with certain requirements, that allows for the use of a corresponding sustainability label, and the terms of which, including its requirements, are publicly available and meet the following criteria (…)”.

  • Victoria Weber