Stricter rules for green claims and environment-related advertising in the EU. What’s changing?

On 1 January 2023, France introduced tighter rules for environment-related advertising and green claims and the EU is likely to soon follow suit. Products and services that are marketed with designations like “climate-neutral” are now subject to stricter conditions for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions they cause. The myclimate label “Engaged for Impact” fulfils all requirements set out by the new laws.

Green claims like “emission-free” and “climate-neutral” are unavoidable in advertising. But these environment-related advertising statements are of limited significance for consumers. A 2020 study by the European Commission categorised more than half of all green claims in the EU as vague, misleading or unfounded. 

New conditions are set to counter this trend. In March 2023, the European Commission set out draft guidelines for how these conditions might look. But it may be some time before they actually come into force. France has already taken action with a new law that applies clear conditions to environment-related advertising, which has been in effect since 1 January 2023. 

What are the new standards that the EU is planning for green claims?

Regulations for green claims in the EU are being tightened under the European Commission’s action plan for the circular economy. The new guidelines introduce clear, uniform standards for environment-related advertising to ensure that green claims are reliable, comparable and verifiable. The goal is to prevent greenwashing and empower consumers in the EU to make informed purchasing decisions. 

The guidelines also apply to offset claims which will have to meet stricter criteria in future, including that: 

  • Reduction efforts must be prioritised over compensation 
  • Claims must clearly distinguish between the outcome of the company’s own reductions and those achieved through compensation 
  • Details of compensation, including the method (reduction or removal), must be included 

Companies that violate the regulations are to be punished with fines. The tightening is not yet final. The EU Parliament approved the new guideline in May 2023 with a large majority. In a next step, it must now be adopted by the European Council.

What are the new rules on environment-related advertising in France? 

Since 1 January 2023, France has been subject to a law (Art. L229-68 du code de l’environnement) that imposes strict conditions on environment-related advertising. Terms like “climate-neutral” and similar formulations are only allowed in advertising for a product or service if the company in question: 

  • Issues an annual report on the greenhouse gas emissions of the product or service, in accordance with NF EN ISO 14067 (or an equivalent standard) 
  • Has a 10-year plan setting out how the greenhouse gas emissions of the product or service are to be continuously reduced, including quantified annual reduction targets 
  • Issues a report with details on the projects that will serve to compensate the remaining greenhouse gas emissions. This must include details such as cost per tonne of CO₂ equivalent and modalities for ensuring there is no double counting 
  • Makes a summary of all these points publicly accessible, on its website for example 

How is myclimate applying the tighter green claim rules?

The myclimate “Engaged for impact” label already meets the new requirements. In host countries, companies can use it to prove that they save as much on emissions as they produce. This puts credibility around their own reduction measures up front in their communications. Experts from myclimate put together carbon footprint calculations, subject to plausibility checks, which serve as the basis for calculations. Products and services that bear the impact label will continue to fulfil applicable criteria, even when the tighter regulations are introduced. 

You can read all about the myclimate impact label here. 

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