`Europe Cracks Down on Eco-Labels in Effort to Curb Greenwashing - Olive Oil Times

Europe Cracks Down on Eco-Labels in Effort to Curb Greenwashing

By Daniel Dawson
Apr. 3, 2023 12:41 UTC

From Planet-Score and Foundation Earth to a mod­i­fied Nutri-Score cli­mate label, the num­ber of labels meant to show foods’ envi­ron­men­tal impact has increased rapidly in recent years.

The com­mis­sion esti­mates that more than 230 labels pur­port­edly allow con­sumers to com­pare the envi­ron­men­tal impact of every­thing they buy. However, crit­ics say many labels are based on weak ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, enabling large-scale green­wash­ing.


Greenwashing refers to the prac­tice of mak­ing mis­lead­ing or false claims about the envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of a prod­uct, ser­vice, or com­pany in order to make it appear more envi­ron­men­tally friendly than it really is. Greenwashing is a form of decep­tion and is often crit­i­cized for under­min­ing the efforts of gen­uine envi­ron­men­tal activists and orga­ni­za­tions.

Now, the European Commission has pro­posed two mea­sures to limit which schemes may be intro­duced into the mar­ket and block oth­ers entirely.

The first says that new eco-labels cre­ated by pri­vate com­pa­nies must show higher envi­ron­men­tal ambi­tion than exist­ing eco-labels to receive approval from mem­ber state gov­ern­ments.

See Also:Organic Producers Take Eco-Score Labels to Court

The sec­ond bans eco-labels intro­duced by national or regional pub­lic enti­ties, except for pub­lic schemes devel­oped at the European Union level. The com­mis­sion is already work­ing on its own sus­tain­able food label.

The com­mis­sion arrived at its con­clu­sions after an inves­ti­ga­tion of 232 exist­ing eco-labels found that more than half of the labels either had weak ver­i­fi­ca­tion meth­ods to check whether food prod­ucts were as sus­tain­able as the labels claimed or none at all.

Commission inves­ti­ga­tors also said that many eco-labels were con­fus­ing, with some rely­ing on self-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing the food with­out explic­itly say­ing so.

However, crit­ics of the European Commission’s new rules said it might sti­fle inno­va­tion and lead con­sumers to dis­trust all eco-labels, includ­ing the most legit­i­mate ones that fol­low best prac­tices.

Before either Green Claims Directives become law, they must first be approved by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.

The deci­sion for more strict reg­u­la­tion of eco-labels comes as the com­mis­sion also intro­duces plans to elim­i­nate vague, mis­lead­ing and unsub­stan­ti­ated envi­ron­men­tal claims from food pack­ag­ing.

According to Frans Timmermans, the com­mis­sion’s first vice pres­i­dent and exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for the European Green Deal, claims such as bee-friendly juices’ or car­bon-neu­tral bananas’ are made with no evi­dence or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion what­so­ever.”

He said this allows large com­pa­nies with com­plex sup­ply chains to muddy the waters while dis­ad­van­tag­ing com­pa­nies that pro­duce sus­tain­able prod­ucts.

Many Europeans want to con­tribute to a more sus­tain­able world through their pur­chases,” he said. They need to be able to trust the claims made. With his pro­posal, we give con­sumers the reas­sur­ance that when some­thing is sold as green, it is actu­ally green.”

A sep­a­rate com­mis­sion inves­ti­ga­tion from 2020 found that 53 per­cent of exam­ined envi­ron­men­tal claims from food prod­ucts across the European Union were vague, mis­lead­ing or unfounded. Forty per­cent of the claims were unsub­stan­ti­ated.

The European Consumer Organization has wel­comed the com­mis­sion’s moves to crack down on green­wash­ing through food label­ing.

Preventing the prob­lem instead of cor­rect­ing it once the harm is done is an inno­v­a­tive move which will ben­e­fit con­sumers, who want to act sus­tain­ably and need reli­able infor­ma­tion to do so,” said Monique Goyens, the orga­ni­za­tion’s direc­tor gen­eral.

Authorities will have to heav­ily fine com­pa­nies to clean up the mar­ket from mis­lead­ing green claims and labels once and for all,” she con­cluded.


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