Customers, investors and business partners are increasingly interested in products and services that respect the environment. This is driven not only by their own convictions, but also by legal requirements. But at the same time, the phenomenon of greenwashing is on the rise.
What is greenwashing and how to combat it effectively
Greenwashing is the unsubstantiated claim that a product or service is environmentally friendly, produced in an environmentally safe way, in harmony with nature, or less harmful to the environment. This phenomenon can apply to any activity, such as communication, ambiguous labelling or packaging.
According to research conducted by the European Commission, a significant proportion – that is, more than 50% – of claims across the EU contain unclear, misleading or unsubstantiated information about the environmental properties of products, and as many as 40% are completely unsubstantiated.
In September this year, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached a preliminary agreement on new rules that will guarantee consumers reliable product information and ban misleading advertising.
The aim is to protect consumers from misleading practices and help them make better choices by introducing truthful and verifiable metrics.
European Union fights greenwashing – what will be banned
Parliament and Council have decided to prohibit the following:
- Generic environmental claims, such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco”, without proof of recognised excellent environmental performance relevant to the claim
- Commercial communications about a product with a feature that limits its durability if information is available on the feature and its effects on the durability;
Claims based on emissions offsetting schemes that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment
- Sustainability labels not based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities
- Durability claims in terms of usage time or intensity under normal conditions, if not proven
- Prompting the consumer to replace consumables, such as printer ink cartridges, earlier than strictly necessary
- Presenting software updates as necessary even if they only enhance functionality features
- Presenting goods as repairable when they are not
It is likely that the agreement will be put to a final vote in November and will receive final approval from both the Parliament and the Council. Once the directive enters into force, Member States will have 24 months to incorporate the provisions into national law.
UOKiK one step ahead of the European Union
This year, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has launched several investigations into whether companies using environmental claims in their marketing communications may be harming the collective interests of consumers. The President of the Office is collecting evidence to evaluate the actions taken.
For harming the collective interests of consumers, companies may be fined up to 10% of their turnover in the financial year preceding the year in which the fine is imposed
Separately, the President of UOKiK may impose a fine of up to PLN 2 million on a person managing a business who intentionally harms the collective interests of consumers.
Questions? Contact us