An end to Greenwashing in the EU?


Director of Natrue, Belgium


The European Commission (EC) has released two legislative proposals aimed at combating greenwashing. One proposal seeks to amend the existing Unfair Commercial Practices and Consumer Rights Directives; while the other aims to develop new sets of requirements to substantiate green claims. With the amended legislation now advanced in the legislative process and various unknowns remaining for the emerging Green Claims Directive, one fundamental question is whether the combination of these tools will achieve their primary objective to prevent overstated environmental information (‘greenwashing’) or whether the risks remain too high leading to an increased in the phenomenon of ‘greenhushing’.

In 2019 the EC stated that “reliable, comparable and verifiable information also plays an important part in enabling buyers to make more sustainable decisions and reduces the risk of greenwashing.” The consequences of lack of appropriate information include loss of consumer welfare, negative environmental impacts resulting from misinformed choices, and harm to single market by affecting fair competition across the Union. Indeed, during a 2020 inventory on environmental claims across various sectors, the EC found that 53% of claims provide vague, misleading or unfounded environmental product information, and that 40% of claims were unsubstantiated. Within this 2020 sweep, 17% of the total misleading sustainability claims covered were related to cosmetics or personal care goods.


The EC considered that setting requirements on environmental claims would not only protect consumers and companies from greenwashing but also enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions based upon credible references, such as claims or labels. Additionally, it would foster the competitiveness of economic operators that make ef ...