EU Banning Descriptors “Eco,” “Climate Neutral,” “Carbon Neutral”
European Union legislators have struck a deal for new rules that will ban most companies from using widely used eco-descriptors like environmentally friendly, eco, climate neutral, and carbon neutral.
The new rules still have to receive approval from the full European Parliament and Council. Those bodies are expected to vote in November. If the rules are approved, member countries will have until 2026 to enact the guidance.
The deal calls for:
-A ban on generic environmental claims if the trader cannot demonstrate an excellent environmental performance.
– A ban on sustainability labels that are not based on certification schemes or established by public authorities.
– A ban on claims based on emissions-offsetting schemes, which are typically called carbon neutral or climate neutral.
– A stricter set of rules for claims of future environmental performance, which will be allowed only if they are accompanied by a realistic implementation plan and feasible targets. They must also be reviewed by independent third-party experts, and their findings will be made available to consumers.
The news comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is overhauling its Green Guides, which dictate how U.S. marketers should communicate environmental claims. The Jewelers Vigilance Committee and other industry players recently submitted suggestions on how the guides should be modified.
EU consumer advocates hailed the new rules.
“Generic environmental claims are popping up everywhere, from food to textiles,” Ursula Pachl, deputy director of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), in a statement. “Consumers end up lost in a jungle of green claims with no clue about which ones are trustworthy. Thankfully, the new rules are putting some order in the green claims’ chaos.
“Companies will have to explain why a product is environmentally friendly. This is crucial if we are to guide consumers to make more sustainable consumption choices.”
Pachl called the ban on claims about carbon neutrality “great news for consumers.” The new language goes further than the EU’s original proposal, which allowed the terms but called for increased transparency around electrical use and carbon offsets.
“Carbon neutral claims are greenwashing, plain and simple,” Pachl said. “It’s a smoke screen giving the impression companies are taking serious action on their climate impact.”
In 2020 the European Commission assessed 150 business environmental claims and found that 53% of them contained “vague, misleading, or unfounded” information. Another survey found that 40% of eco-claims made by EU businesses were likely misleading.