Parliament approves position on Green Claims

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By Kate Adams - Senior European Policy Advisor. 

On 22 March 2023, the European Commission published its highly anticipated proposal for a Directive on Substantiation and Communication of Explicit Environmental Claims (Green Claims Directive). Designed to protect consumers from green washing, the legislation would require companies to back up their green claims with credible, scientific evidence.

March 2024 Update 

In March 2024, the European Parliament adopted its position on the file with 467 votes in favour, 65 against and 74 abstentions.

The Parliament wants claims and evidence to be assessed within 30 days, but micro-enterprises will be exempt from the new rules. Claims based only on carbon offsetting will be banned. Companies could, however, use offsetting if they have already reduced their emissions as much as possible and use offsets for residual emissions only. Offsets must be certified, for example under the Carbon Removals Certification Framework. The Parliament position also allows green claims on products containing hazardous substances should remain possible, but this should be reviewed in the future. 

Any new environmental labelling scheme in a third country used on the Union market must be rubber-stamped by the Commission. This means that any UK agriculture products on the single-market containing a 'green label' must have pre-approval.

The Council is still working to the General Approach, with discussions taking place at a technical level. The next meeting is anticipated to take place in March. Once the Council has adopted its General Approach, trialogue negotiations will begin. However, with the EU elections taking place in June, it is unlikely that much progress will be made. 

Aimed at thwarting greenwashing, the proposals have been made in attempt to prevent companies from making unsubstantiated environmental claims. And with over 200 environmental labels in circulation in the EU – half of which are reportedly vague, misleading, or unfounded – the proposal has been eagerly anticipated by green campaigners across the Union. They hope the new rules would help drive the transition to a just, sustainable, circular economy.

The Directive would apply to voluntary environmental claims made by traders about products or traders in business-to-consumer commercial practices, including agriculture products. The Directive would set minimum requirements on the substantiation and communication of green claims. Put simply, any environmental labels on a product would have to be justified.


A leaked version of the proposal showed that the Commission originally planned to use the Product Environment Footprint (PEF) or Organisational Environment Footprint (OEF) to substantiate green claims – both of which are lifecycle assessments.

However, the Commission has not prescribed a single method of calculation, citing that the PEF/OEF methods do not consider all potential impacts on the environment. For example, the method does not cover farm level biodiversity or farming practice. Rather than stipulating a single methodology, the Directive allows flexibility in methodology but defines minimum criteria for substantiating a claim. This includes:

  • Inclusion of accurate primary, company specific data where possible. Where this is not available, secondary information should be permitted, so long as it shows high a high level of quality and accuracy.
  • any environmental claim must be based on a widely recognised, scientific evidence and based on state-of-the-art technology.

Labelling schemes

Before communicating a green claim on a label, companies would have to have a green claim independently verified. In addition, information must also be readily available for consumers.

Under the proposal, the Commission aims to clamp down on new labelling schemes. New public schemes will not be permitted unless developed at an EU level. If a Member State considers that a new public labelling scheme is required, it can ask the EU to develop it. Private schemes could be permitted but only if added value can be demonstrated. The scheme would have to be validated by the Commission.

Agri-food products

Any agri-food product sold in the European Union with a voluntary environmental label would have to comply with the Directive. The Directive excludes claims that are already covered by exisiting EU rules, such as the EU Ecolabel, and therefore does not apply to environmental claims on organically certified products.

The role of Member States

The Commission has delegated powers to Member States to monitor and enforce the Directive. Member States would have to designate a competent authority. Competent authorities would be required to perform regular checks on claims and labelling schemes, alongside monitoring the risks of infringement, and taking the necessary steps such as inspections and hearings.

In the case of infringements, Member States would define penalties based on the nature, gravity, extent and duration of the infringement. Penalties should be effective and proportionate and could include confiscation of revenues, fines or temporary exclusion from access to public. In any case, penalties would have to effectively dissuade traders from non-compliance with requirements of the Directive.

Third countries

Any product in the European Union with an environmental claim would have to comply with the Directive, and any third country labelling scheme would have to be approved by the Commission. Therefore, if a UK producer wishes to sell their product in the EU with an environmental claim, the Commission would be required to approve the labelling scheme.

Next steps

The Green Claims Directive will now be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for examination and be subject to their approval. Should the Directive be adopted, Member States would have until 18 months after the entry into force of the Directive to transpose it into national law and should apply its measures 24 months after its entry into force.

The Directive would apply twenty days following that of its publication in the EU Official Journal. The Directive would be reviewed 6 years after its entry into force to assess if the Directive achieved its objectives. Member States would regularly monitor the application and supply information to the Commission on an annual basis.

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