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Upcoming EU Anti-Greenwashing Directive: Background and Impacts

Upcoming EU Anti-Greenwashing Directive: Background and Impacts

On 17 January 2024, MEPs voted on the anti-greenwashing law (Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition): 593 were in favour, 21 against. In March 2022, the EU Commission had already published a series of proposals to amend the existing EU directives on consumer protection and information.

Aggressive advertising through half-true, untrue or unsubstantiated environmental claims on products should be banned and instead the provision of useful, verifiable information should be made mandatory in order to give consumers the opportunity to incorporate environmental aspects into their purchasing decisions without being deliberately influenced – or rather manipulated – by unfair means.

One of the most important changes is that companies must label products more clearly and trustworthily. In future, they will no longer be allowed to use general green claims for which there is a lack of evidence, for example by printing words such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural” or “climate neutral” on the packaging without explaining the statement in more detail and providing sound evidence.

Another important point is the regulation of sustainability labels. The new anti-greenwashing law only allows labels that are based on official certification systems or that have been determined by the authorities. In addition, the guidelines prohibit the use of claims that are based on emissions compensation schemes and indicate that a product has a reduced, neutral or positive impact on the environment. For the time being, this will probably only affect companies above a certain size.

As soon as the EU Council adopts the new regulations and enters them in the Official Journal, the member states will be required to transpose them into their national law within two years. The outcome of the European elections in 2024 will also be of decisive importance. These elections will shape the direction of EU policy for the next five years, particularly in areas of sustainability legislation. The results of these elections could therefore have a decisive influence on the final decisions and the resulting legislation.

Two new EU directives – against greenwashing, for consumer protectionblank

As can be seen in the graphic, two new EU directives are due to be adopted soon. The overarching law banning greenwashing and misleading product information was already approved by the vast majority of MEPs earlier this year, as we mentioned at the beginning. All that remains to be done is for the EU Council to approve it and for the EU member states to implement it.

The second EU directive against greenwashing (Green Claims Directive) regulates the communication of explicit environmental claims. It is due to be voted on in spring 2024. Once adopted, the EU member states will have one and a half years to establish the regulations into national law.

The aim is to determine how companies must prove their environmental claims in concrete terms. The requirements for certification procedures for sustainability labels must also be defined. It is crucial that green claims are based on generally recognised scientific findings. In addition, consumers should have the easiest possible access to further information regarding the claims.

Both directives build on each other. One requires the other. Basically, the law prohibiting greenwashing and misleading product information refers to the ‘what’, while the law on communicating explicit environmental claims specifies the ‘how’.

Effects of the law using the example of one-comma-five iced tea

Using the example of the einskommafünfgrad iced tea brand, we can illustrate how green claims may no longer be used in future as a result of the new regulations and which aspects of packaging design are important in view of the anti-greenwashing law that will soon come into force.


Care must be taken when selecting the images, illustrations and colours included in the respective environmental statement. These features must not mislead consumers in any way. Consumers should not get the impression that the product in question is “greener” than it actually is.

On the front of the packaging, the brand indicates at the top left and bottom right that the iced tea is “climate-positive” – on the one hand with corresponding lettering and on the other with a non-official seal. However, the brand fails to provide any valid proof of this claim. There is a brief explanation of how climate positivity is to be understood on the side, but according to the EU directive, caution must be exercised when purchasing CO2 certificates. The term ‘climate positive’ suggests a positive contribution to the environment when buying the product. In reality, however, the emissions are merely offset elsewhere. The term ‘climate-positive’ is therefore misleading in this context. Without proof, nothing works here either. Clear reference must be made to the CO2 certificates and it must also be proven that everything possible has already been done to reduce CO2 in the company and that only the residual emissions are offset with the help of certificates – a clear distinction must be made between actual internal emission reductions and external compensation payments. It is also important to show that the certificates do not have any further environmental impact elsewhere.

Important note: With valid certificates, certain green claims may be used in future, but own or other non-official seals may not be used under any circumstances. Valid certificates are, for example, seals that are subject to existing EU regulations (e.g. EU organic logo) or seals that have undergone an official certification process with defined requirements.

It is also problematic to some extent that although one-sixth of a degree mentions in two places on the front that it is an organic iced tea, the recognisability of this central characteristic still leaves a lot to be desired, especially as the elementary evidence, i.e. the permitted organic seals, are only hidden at the bottom at the side – but they are there nonetheless.

“Superfood” is not a legally protected term, but merely a marketing term. It could fool consumers into believing that the product has greater health benefits. In addition, the brand states that the fruit comes from the neighbourhood, but does not reveal where exactly. This should be considered insufficient information.

Under the claim “Fully organic? Logical!”, einskommafünfgrad states that the juice is produced using 100 per cent green electricity from renewable sources. According to the new directive, such claims must be substantiated.

Conclusion and outlook: fewer green claims, more clarity

The anti-greenwashing law is expected to reduce the number of environmental claims on packaging and at the same time increase transparency for consumers. With the impending introduction of these regulations, brands will need to consider more detail in their product design and modify their existing packaging accordingly. Not only do the legal requirements make this necessary, but a growing consumer demand for transparency in environmental claims is also becoming increasingly clear.

Are you also affected and need support? Contact us – we will help you to implement your packaging in a legally compliant, creative and appealing way!

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