With the aim of preventing greenwashing and unclear environmental claims, the European Commission has published two proposals for new EU directives on Green Claims. In their present form, however, there are clear contradictions in the proposals – both between the proposed Green Claims directives themselves and between these proposals and the existing EU Organic Regulation. These contradictions are brought to light in a new legal opinion prepared by the law firm WBS Legal as part of a joint research project by the Oeko-Institut, the Association of Organic Food Processors (AöL) and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).
For example, contradictions arise in relation to claims that a product is "organic", "ecological" or "biobased", which, according to the Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition, are to be prohibited if the product does not offer environmental excellence. There is inconsistency between these provisions and the EU Organic Regulation, the experts say. Furthermore, private labelling schemes would be unduly burdened by an additional system to substantiate their environmental claims, especially given that some of these schemes meet stricter rules and requirements than stipulated in the EU Organic Regulation. Many questions about the specific requirements relating to substantiation of environmental claims also remain unanswered. For example, it is largely unclear at present which data basis may be used to assess environmental claims in future. This is particularly challenging in relation to the provision of data from the agriculture sector.
Background: the European Commission’s proposed directives on greenwashing
The European Commission is committed to preventing greenwashing. In order to address the lack of explicit regulations on environmental (green) claims and to create legal clarity and certainty throughout the EU with regard to the communication of environmental claims, it published a proposal for a Directive amending Directives 2005/29/EC (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive) and 2011/83/EU (Consumer Rights Directive) (COM(2022) 143 final) in March 2022. The proposal for a Directive on the substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (COM(2023) 166 final) followed on 22 March 2023.
Brief description of the legal opinion on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the substantiation and communication of environmental claims (Green Claims Directive) and on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2005/28/EC and 2011/83/EU as regards empowering consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information by AöL, FiBL, WBS Legal and Oeko-Institut (German)
The long version of the legal opinion will be presented at the BioFach 2024 trade fair.