In a world that is increasingly aware of the importance of combating climate change, many are looking for environmentally friendly products when shopping.
But not everything that is proclaimed as such is green.
According to data from the European Commission, more than half of the ecological claims made by companies and products, from clothes to detergents to food, are "vague, misleading or unsubstantiated".
Up to 40% even have no basis to be sold as environmentally friendly products.
To combat this
or green image washing and, incidentally, to protect both consumers and companies that do meet the standards, Brussels has presented a proposal on Wednesday to unify the criteria "against
and misleading environmental claims.”
The proposal, which will still have to be reviewed and validated by the European Parliament and Council before entering into force throughout the EU, seeks to respond to a situation in which "companies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their laundering [of image] green”.
This is how the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, explains it in an interview with EL PAÍS.
Examples, he points out, are the order of the day in all kinds of shops: “There are T-shirts on the market that claim they are made from recycled plastic bottles.
But when you read [label] carefully, you see that only 1% of that jersey is."
In order to be truly green and be rated as such—which then often translates into positive publicity and even higher prices for that product that conscientious consumers are willing to pay—it must be proven that “the entire product value chain is strongly green , so that there is no
or, basically, the consumer is being deceived”, emphasizes Sinkevicius.
In the crosshairs of Brussels are, among others, statements that customers come across in their day to day in stores and supermarkets such as "packaging made with 30% recycled plastic" or "ocean-friendly sunscreen".
He also wants to make sure that when a company claims to deliver "CO₂ offset" that the claim is strictly true.
To do this, the directive that the European Executive has now launched proposes that, when companies decide to make a "green statement" about their products or services—something that, recalls Sinkevicius, is totally voluntary, nobody forces them to do it—, they must respect a “minimum of standards” on how to corroborate such claims and, also, how to communicate them.
The commissioner emphasizes that the objective is twofold: both to guarantee that the consumer can make an informed purchase, and that the companies that do comply with what they affirm achieve a competitive advantage and greater protection against others that limit themselves to greenwashing
Only small companies - with less than 10 employees or a sales volume of less than two million euros - will be exempt, unless they want to submit to these rules of their own free will.
Thus, green claims must be "based on widely recognized scientific evidence, identifying relevant environmental impacts", something that must receive "independent verification".
Furthermore, if one product is compared to another, this must be done in a "fair" manner based on "equivalent" information and data.
The directive seeks, on the contrary, to prohibit labels that use "aggregate score" of the environmental impact of the product, unless it is already specified in the European regulations.
In fact, another of the stated objectives is to ensure that labeling systems are "robust and reliable", which is why it seeks to "control their proliferation".
Currently, he points out, there are 230 different labels, something that, the Commission warns, creates "confusion and distrust" of the consumer.
For this reason, Brussels encourages the creation of "European labeling systems".
On the contrary, it considers that new public labeling systems should not be allowed “unless they are developed at a European level”.
In the case of private labels, the regulations provide that they are only allowed "if they demonstrate a greater environmental ambition than the existing one", and always under the condition of obtaining prior official approval.
In any case, he stresses, environmental labels must be "transparent, verified by third parties and reviewed regularly."
The measure will not affect the symbol already approved at the European level of the EU Ecolabel, the label obtained by products that already respect very precise environmental requirements.
Of the Member States, they will be required to carry out "regular verifications" of the affirmations and, in case of verifying irregularities, oblige the infringing company to "adopt effective and prompt actions to remedy the infringement", with the possibility of imposing "efficient" sanctions. , proportionate and dissuasive” otherwise.
Reinforcement of the "right of repair"
The fight against
is part of the drive for the circular economy that Brussels has been carrying out for years, and which this Wednesday added one more initiative: delving into the "right to repair", with new common rules to encourage the repair of products instead of of their premature replacement by new ones, something that Europe has been working on for a year now and that it now wants to deepen.
The reasons are obvious: every year in the EU alone, 35 million tons of devices that could be repaired are thrown away.
Something that creates “unnecessary” greenhouse gases, up to 261 million tons per year.
And it does not only affect the environment: Brussels calculates that consumers lose up to 12,000 million euros each year when buying new electrical appliances instead of repairing damaged ones.
For a year, Brussels has been working to ensure that there are more and more repairable products and that the consumer can have reliable information about it.
Now it goes one step further, "the last piece of the puzzle", as defined by the Justice Commissioner, Didier Reynders, at a press conference, by reinforcing the "right to repair" with a series of new common rules that seek to "promote the repair” instead of the replacement of devices such as washing machines, televisions, sound equipment or phones and tablets.
The new regulations focus on the pre-sale phase: it is expected that, during the two-year warranty period for an appliance, the seller is obliged to offer to repair the product if it is cheaper or costs the same as replacing it, which which is, until now, the preferred option for most merchants.
In addition, after the guarantee, the producers of goods subject to European repairability standards, such as televisions or dishwashers, will be obliged to repair them -until now they could refuse to do so, regardless of the estimated cost- during the next 5 to 10 years after purchase, unless it is technically impossible.
The Brussels proposal also seeks the creation of national repair internet platforms, so that consumers have the option of looking for alternatives when it comes to fixing a device.
These platforms may also be used, Reynders has said, for the purchase and sale of repaired products.
"Repairing is the key to putting an end to the 'buy, break and throw away' model that is so damaging to our planet, our health and our economy", stressed the Vice-President of the Commission and head of the European Green Pact, Frans Timmermans.
It is about giving the buyer the option of having more decision-making power over their purchasing habits —and saving more—, at the same time that “it sends an important message to companies: that sustainable business models and investing in repair is profitable ”, Reynders added.
You can follow CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT on
, or sign up here to receive
our weekly newsletter
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber