In a move to empower consumers and foster environmentally-friendly choices, the European Parliament recently approved draft legislation aimed at enhancing product labeling, durability, and combating misleading sustainability claims.
The approved negotiating mandate seeks to ban the use of general environmental claims such as “environmentally friendly,” “natural,” “biodegradable,” “climate neutral,” or “eco” unless accompanied by substantial evidence. This move aims to curb the rampant practice of greenwashing, where companies exploit vague or unsubstantiated claims to mislead consumers.
Additionally, the directive aims to prohibit environmental claims solely based on carbon offsetting schemes. Furthermore, misleading practices such as making claims about a product’s entire environmental impact if the claim is only true for a portion of it will be forbidden, according to the parliament. The vote passed 544-18 with 17 abstentions.
Streamlining Product Labeling and Durability Certification
To simplify product information and ensure authenticity, the European Parliament proposes allowing sustainability labels only if they are based on official certification schemes or established by public authorities. This measure will provide consumers with reliable indicators when making environmentally conscious choices. By relying on trusted certifications, consumers can have greater confidence in the sustainability claims made by companies.
The parliament’s objective is to promote product longevity by banning design features that intentionally limit a product’s lifespan or cause premature malfunction. Manufacturers will also be prohibited from limiting a product’s functionality when used with consumables, spare parts, or accessories from other companies. Furthermore, consumers must be informed about any repair restrictions before making a purchase, enabling them to make well-informed decisions regarding product durability.
In an effort to highlight high-quality goods and incentivize companies to prioritize durability, the European Parliament proposes the introduction of a guarantee label. This label will not only indicate the legally required guarantee length but also any possible extensions offered by the producers.
Croatia’s Rapporteur Biljana Borzan expressed her satisfaction with the vote, stating: “The industry will no longer profit from making consumer goods that break just as the guarantee period is over. Consumers will have to be provided with information about the options and cost of repairs in a clear manner. Product labels will inform citizens which goods are guaranteed to last longer, and producers whose goods are more durable will profit. The jungle of false environmental claims will end as only certified and substantiated ecological claims will be permitted.”
With the European Council having adopted its own negotiating mandate, negotiations between parliament and member states to finalize the directive’s content and wording will commence soon. This collaborative effort aims to align the interests of all stakeholders involved and ensure a comprehensive and effective legislative framework.
The proposed directive on empowering consumers for the green transition marks a significant step towards sustainable consumption, packaging, and production in the European Union. With transparency and durability at its core, the directive aims to reshape the marketplace, ensuring that only certified and substantiated ecological claims are allowed.