As a founder of a company dedicated to transparency and sustainability, I was so excited to learn about the upcoming ban on greenwashing. In my journey as a consumer, I have been misled by greenwashing practices, such as "natural body wash" and "organic care" claims, without any supporting evidence. This motivated me to start Go For Zero, a company that provides everyone with access to products that are genuinely sustainable and transparent.
I believe we have a right to know what is in the products we buy, and brands should be held accountable for misleading environmental claims. The ban on greenwashing is a huge step towards protecting all of us and ensuring that we have the information to make informed choices about the products we purchase.
The European Union (EU) is leading the way with a provisional agreement on new laws to ban misleading greenwashing claims within advertisements. Let's break down what this all means for both businesses and consumers.
But first, a refresher on greenwashing
Greenwashing is the process of a business publishing incorrect or misleading information to suggest they are more environmentally responsible than they are. This misrepresentation misleads consumers (us) into believing our choices are eco-conscious but, in reality, are harmful to the environment. Greenwashing tactics include vague or exaggerated claims about the product's 'environmental benefits', and the use of misleading imagery or labels.
A 2020 study conducted by the European Commission found that 53% of environmental product claims were "vague, misleading or unfounded". Unfortunately, greenwashing practices have increased as more consumers are looking to make eco-friendly purchases.
The EU's stance on greenwashing
As the EU moves towards a commitment that holds businesses accountable for their environmental claims and promotes genuine sustainability, let's look at what these provisional laws will include.
What's included in the ban?
Generic environmental claims, e.g. "environmentally friendly", "natural", "biodegradable", "climate neutral", or "eco", without proof of recognised excellent environmental performance relevant to the claim;
They are presenting goods as repairable when they are not.
Claims about emissions offsetting schemes that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment;
Sustainability labels not based on approved certifications;
Durability claims in terms of usage time or intensity under normal conditions, if not proven;
Prompting the consumer to replace consumables, such as printer ink cartridges, earlier than strictly necessary (how cool!)
Presenting software updates as necessary even if they only enhance functionality features;
What will this mean for businesses?
For businesses that have relied on greenwashing tactics, changes will need to be made to invest in genuine sustainability efforts and transparent communications about the actual impact of their products. We can’t wait for this!
The EU's actions will also empower consumers to be discerning and conscientious in purchasing decisions. By banning greenwashing and improving product durability information, consumers will gain the knowledge and tools to make better choices.
The next steps
To officially become a law, these provisional bans will first need the final YES vote from both the Parliament and Council. Voting is expected in November, so keep an eye out for results.
We love seeing these progressive changes towards a better future. The EU's stance on greenwashing is a big step in the right direction, and we can’t wait for Australia to follow. Until then, you know you can ask us any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.