January 22, 2024

Overview of the Directive Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition

The EU Parliament has given its final green light to a directive that will improve product labelling and ban the use of misleading environmental claims. This was decided by the European Parliament after a large majority voted yes to the Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (ECGT) directive on the 17th of January. Businesses of all sizes and sectors selling products in the EU will be affected by the new rule, which is planned to come into force in early 2026 after approval by the EU Council.

What is the aim of the directive?

The Directive is a key aspect of the EU's effort to promote sustainable consumption by ensuring that consumers are empowered and well-informed to make sustainable choices. It focuses on how businesses need to communicate about their product’s durability, repairability, or environmental impact.

The aim is to address unfair commercial practices such as early obsolescence, greenwashing, misleading social claims, and unclear sustainability labels. In addition, to create a level playing field for corporate entities, ensuring fair, understandable, and reliable environmental claims. This, in turn, promotes competition within the corporate sector, encouraging the development of more environmentally sustainable products and minimizing negative environmental impacts.

What is a green claim?

A green claim refers to any non-mandatory message or representation in a commercial communication that implies or states a positive or zero impact on the environment. This can take various forms, including text, images, graphics, or symbols, such as labels, brand names, company names, or product names. The claim suggests that a product, product category, brand, or trader is environmentally friendly, less damaging to the environment than alternatives, or has improved its environmental impact over time. In essence, it's a communication asserting an eco-friendly attribute, often for marketing purposes, and is subject to scrutiny under regulations to ensure accuracy and transparency.

Examples of green claims

·     Planet friendly

·     100 % green

·     Climate neutral

·     Climate positive

·     Energy efficient

·     Biodegradable

·     Eco

·     Packaging made of 30 % recycled plastic

What claims will be banned?

Generic claims presented alone with no explanation or evidence. This includes claims such as planet friendly, 100 % green, climate neutral, climate positive, natural or eco.

The use of carbon offsets when making climate neutrality claims. It is no longer allowed to say that a product or service has a neutral, reduced, or positive impact on the environment due to emissions offsetting schemes.

Sustainability labels not based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities. These claims will no longer be allowed in the European Union and includes labels created by companies for their products. A temporary ban on creating new eco labelling schemes will be in place while existing labels go through a review process.

Promises of future environmental performance. This will no longer be allowed if they lack a realistic commitment to reach the goal and without clear, objective, publicly available and verifiable commitments and targets.

What does this mean for your business?

With the enactment of ECGT, businesses are now legally obligated to ensure that sustainability claims on their products meet the stringent criteria for clarity, objectivity, public availability, and verifiability. In essence, ECGT places a substantial responsibility on businesses to uphold transparent and authentic sustainability commitments in their product labelling.

When does it come into force?

The directive now needs to receive final approval from the Council, after which it will be published in the Official Journal and member states will have 2 years to transpose it into national law. The directive will come into force from early 2026.

Connection to other regulations within the EU 

In combination with other directives, such as the Green Claims Directive, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) and the Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) the ECGT contributes to ensuring producers in the EU develop more sustainable products and consumers can make informed choices, which in turn, generate more demand for sustainable products.

The Empowering Consumers Directive requires companies to provide evidence, but it does not require environmental claims to be verified before they are made (something proposed under the Green Claims Directive). The Green Claims Directive is expected to provide common rules for communicating effectively about the environmental credentials of products, introduce a pre-approval procedure before claims are put on the market, strengthen rules for environmental labels, and introduce stricter sanctions against greenwashing.

This accompanied directive will ensure consumers within the bloc are presented with clear, accurate and verified information relating to the sustainability credentials of the products they are buying. The synergy between these directives could strengthen consumer protection, ensuring a more effective crackdown on misleading environmental claims.

Ethos welcomes the new directive

It gives legitimacy to sustainability work based on established legislation, science, standards, and frameworks – methods on which Ethos advisory has been based since the start of 2007. By working with us, you can always be sure that your sustainability work is backed up with evidence and science.

Our recommendations

Avoid generic claims like planet friendly, 100 % green, climate neutral, climate positive, natural, or eco without providing evidence and data. With the new directive, such generic claims will be prohibited unless recognized excellent environmental performance can be demonstrated.

Avoid asserting a neutral, reduced, or positive environmental impact based on emissions offsetting schemes. Such claims will no longer be permissible.

Ensure sustainability labels align with approved certification schemes such as the EU Eco Label or are established by public authorities. Labels created by companies for their products will no longer be allowed without proper validation.

Do not make promises of future environmental performance without clear, objective, publicly available and verifiable commitments and targets.

Contact us to find out more about how Ethos can support you to meet incoming EU marketing and labeling regulations.