Parliament has given the final green light to a directive that will improve product labelling and ban the use of misleading environmental claims.
The directive adopted on Wednesday, with 593 votes in favour, 21 votes against and 14 abstentions, aims to protect consumers from misleading business practices and help them make better purchasing choices. To this end, a number of problematic marketing habits related to greenwashing and early obsolescence of products will be added to the EU list of prohibited business practices.
More accurate and reliable advertising
Most importantly, the new rules aim to make product labelling clearer and more reliable by prohibiting the use of generic environmental claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘climate-neutral’ or ‘eco-friendly’ without supporting evidence.
The use of sustainability labels will also now be regulated, given the confusion caused by their proliferation and the non-use of comparative data. In future, sustainability labels will only be allowed in the EU on the basis of official certification schemes or those set up by public authorities.
In addition, the Directive will prohibit claims that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment due to emissions offsetting schemes.
Emphasis on durability
Another important goal of the new legislation is to make producers and consumers focus more on the durability of products. In the future, warranty information needs to be more visible and a new harmonised label will be created to give greater prominence to products with an extended warranty period.
The new rules will also prohibit: unsubstantiated durability claims (e.g. saying that a washing machine will last 5000 wash cycles if this is not true under normal conditions); the encouragement to replace supplies earlier than is strictly necessary (often the case with printer cartridges) and the presentation of products as repairable when they are not.
Parliament’s rapporteur, Biljana Borzan (S&D, Croatia), said: “This law will change the lives of all Europeans! Let’s move away from throwaway culture, make marketing more transparent, and combat premature product obsolescence. People will be able to choose products that are more durable, repairable and sustainable thanks to reliable labels and advertisements. Most importantly, companies will no longer be able to fool people by saying that plastic bottles are good because the company planted trees somewhere or saying that something is sustainable without explaining how. This is a great victory for all of us!”
The directive also now has to receive final approval from the Council, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.
The new directive is expected to work in tandem with the directive on green claims, which is currently being discussed in committee in Parliament. The latter will be more specific and will define the conditions for the use of environmental claims in more detail.