How to communicate according to the Green Claims Directive

Marlena glans

Marlena Glans

Sustainability Consultant

As sustainable products and services have become more attractive to customers in recent years, organizations have seen the advantage of promoting their products and services as sustainable. Claims such as 100% biodegradable, eco-friendly or green products have been widely used and made it hard for customers and consumers to understand products' real environmental performance.

Many of these claims have been misleading and companies have faced the risk of being accused of deliberately making organisation sound more sustainable than it is, in other words known as greenwashing. An example of this could be an organization that has claimed to have offered climate neutral products or services while not having any proof of it. To avoid this and to protect the customers and consumers as well as the planet, the EU has proposed a new regulation; currently the EU Green Claims directive.

The purpose of the EU Green Claims directive is to make green claims reliable, comparable and verifiable and in doing so, protecting consumers from misleading claims. It also wants to contribute to creating a circular economy and establish a fair competitive environment where products and brands can compete based on factual data. To make this happen, the proposal has given clear criteria on how companies should prove their environmental claims to ensure they are solid, transparent and reliable and requirements for verifying the claims.

Should this new directive stop companies from communicating on their sustainability progress in fear of being accused of greenwashing? Absolutely not.

Companies should be proud of their work and help their customers and consumers navigating through this landscape by communicating on their sustainability work if this is done according to the EU Green Claims directive. Here are some examples:

1. Be transparent in your sustainability communication. Be honest that you have not figured it all out but that you are trying your best to reduce your negative impact. This could by sharing a reduction and transition plan where you highlight the areas that you want to focus on and how to improve in these areas for e.g. reducing CO2 emissions, increasing recycled materials or redesigning the product to lengthen its life cycle.

2. Back up any claims with data. If your organization shares a reduction or transition plan, it is important to share the data behind this, such as the carbon footprint, value chain analysis, Life Cycle Assessment, Environmental Product Declaration or other relevant data.

3. Verify the data. It is always a good idea to receive help from experts in the different areas to make sure the work is done correctly. If the carbon footprint calculations have been made by the organization itself, it could be a good idea to verify this with an independent and accredited verifier before publishing this. It is also good to back up targets and initiatives with respected organizations that can verify this. It could be for example the Science Based Targets Initiative that determines if all necessary data is provided and assesses if the target meets a few basic criteria.

      Example of claims to avoid:

      • Misleading claims such as Climate neutral, Carbon Neutral, 100% CO2 compensated – A lot of companies have been accused of greenwashing when they have claimed carbon neutrality through offsetting rather than reducing.
      • Intangible claims such as Eco-friendly or Green – These generic claims don’t really say much about the products’ environmental impact and are better to avoid.
      • No time-limit claims such as 100% biodegradable - A product can be 100% biodegradable even if it takes 1000 years to decompose and does not say much about the products environmental impact. Also, many biodegradable and compostable plastics require industrial composting with high enough temperature to fulfil their claim making consumers falsely believe it’s safe to throw it in the nature.

      If you feel unsecure navigating through this landscape or need help in collecting or verifying the data or learn in general how we can help you with your sustainability goals, then please reach out. At Greenstep, we're dedicated to guiding you through this journey with our expert team of consultants.