To protect increasingly climate-conscious consumers from being misled, the proposed directive will ban generic statements including ‘eco,’ ‘environmentally-friendly,’ ‘carbon neutral,’ and ‘natural’ from being made without evidence.
More than ever, we’re seeing brands claiming to be sustainability-orientated in an effort to attract climate-conscious consumers.
So much so, in fact, that words such as ‘recyclable,’ ‘biodegradable,’ and ‘responsibly sourced’ can be found on almost every piece of packaging their products are cased in.
Yet while some of these companies are true to their word and do uphold genuinely progressive values and practices, many seem a little too keen to emphasise outlandish environmental credentials when, in reality, it’s all part of a marketing tactic called ‘greenwashing.’
This, as I’m sure you know by now, involves brands deliberately flooding their campaigns with extremely ambiguous language to make shoppers think they have the planet’s best interests at heart when they actually don’t.
During the last decade, this deceitful ploy has gained significant traction worldwide, with a 2022 survey of more than 1,400 executives across different industries uncovering that 68 percent of companies are exploiting this grey area for profit.
And, frustratingly, very little has been done to hold them accountable.
Until recently, that is, because thanks to a proposed EU directive, this may be about to change.
Seeking to crack down on advertisers making false green claims, regulators (if they get the go ahead) will ban generic statements including ‘eco,’ ‘environmentally-friendly,’ ‘carbon neutral,’ and ‘natural’ from being made without evidence.
They’re also set to confront ‘circular-washing,’ whereby brands lie about contributing to a burgeoning economic model that keeps materials in the loop for as long as possible, only to draw in consumers whose ethos they recognise as drastically in flux alongside public awareness of global warming.
Requiring companies to verify their goods’ merits through third-party certification schemes, the proposed directive aims to make ‘environmentally sustainable products and business models the norm, and not the exception.’
It calls for nuance in determining goods’ environmental – or circular – performance, noting that comparative claims between similar products with different raw materials and production processes must take the most relevant life-cycle stages into account.
The hope is that many companies sustainability-related data will come to the surface, providing new opportunities for transparency, after a study revealed that 53 per cent of environmental goods claims are ‘unfounded’ and that 42 per cent of green product gambits are ‘entirely manipulative.’