The European Commission’s proposed Green Claims Directive is intended to protect consumers and reduce greenwashing, aims that the Swedish Forest Industries (SFIF) supports wholeheartedly. However, for the Directive to have its desired effect, it is vital how the proposals are structured and how they relate to the entire value chain. It will also be crucial that all 27 Member States implement the Directive in the same way, says Kai-Yee Thim, Director Product Policy Swedish Forest Industries, in a new position paper.
“We support the aims of the proposals – enabling consumers to make informed choices with the help of reliable and verifiable green claims. However, it is crucial to clarify how green claims would be substantiated and managed in practical terms across the entire value chain, and that the implementation of the Directive is harmonised between Member States,” says Thim.
Risk of greenwashing
It can be difficult for consumers to interpret the multitude of environmental labels now used for products and services. The risk of greenwashing is considerable, which is why the Commission has proposed the Green Claims Directive.
“We feel that the Commission’s ambition that companies should be able to substantiate environmental claims using harmonised and standardised methods is important. It complements other consumer protection legislation and makes it easier for consumers to make informed choices. However, we have also identified a number of challenges, which need to be addressed to ensure the Directive achieves its desired outcomes,” says Thim.
First and foremost, SFIF would like to highlight the importance of applying the same conditions to all Member States. This means that enforcement of the Directive is similar in all 27 Member States – and for all products – irrespective of whether they are manufactured in the EU or imported.
Could result in greater confusion
“If the legislation is not the same, and applied to all areas, the Directive could – in direct contradiction of its intended purpose – result in greater confusion for consumers. For this reason, the EU needs to be clear, and the legislation must not be open to misinterpretation.”
Clarity is also needed on what underpins an environmental claim.
"There is a list of criteria defining how environmental claims can be substantiated, but it is vaguely worded. It is vital that such requirements are interpreted in the same way by all Member States, so that there is no room for misinterpretation. SFIF sees a risk that lack of clarity could discourage stakeholders from using labelling, even though they meet the criteria to do so,” says Thim.