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The new EU anti-greenwashing norms

Stricter standards for brands claiming to be environmentally friendly

The new EU anti-greenwashing norms Stricter standards for brands claiming to be environmentally friendly

Last Wednesday, the European Commission published a draft to introduce new regulations against greenwashing. Among the main proposals is the imposition of concrete proof by brands claiming to be eco-friendly, and the risk, for those who fail to do so, of a fine of at least 4% of the company's turnover. Although the rules in the draft are stricter than the previous ones, the doubt remains that the legal decisions chosen by the EC are still too vague, not strict enough for environmental activists, and not clear enough for business groups to follow.

The strong growth in recent years in the green market, namely the sale of products with a reduced environmental impact, is increasingly motivating brands and fashion houses to market their products as environmentally conscious while risking misrepresentation. In light of the frequent occurrences of greenwashing, the UN also intervened on the issue this week, underlining the damage that misguided marketing can cause for the climate as well as for the reputation of the brands involved, which is why the EU's efforts to combat the problem are still receiving backlash. «The risk is that things are going to get very, very confusing,» told BoF George Harding-Rolls, campaign manager of the environmental group Changing Markets Foundation, «we're going to see "green hushing". We're going to see a lot of fashion brands and companies across all sectors take some time to digest this and, at that time, probably make a lot less green statements.» According to a 2020 study, more than 50% of the European anti-greenwashing regulation is confusing.

The new laws, now in the process of being passed, would oblige brands to scientifically verify any claims included in their advertisements, and thus consider the lifecycle of their products more broadly, instead of only considering one "green" aspect as it suits them. It will also ban "self-certified" labels, impose more checks on the veracity of the benefits of materials such as recycled polyester, and question terms such as "carbon neutral" and "climate neutral." According to some observers, this draft also needs more clarity. «It leaves many rules open to interpretation and does not provide any legal certainty,» said Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, co-founder and director of the public affairs consultancy 2B Policy and president of the fashion industry advocacy group Policy Hub, «it absolutely fails to provide the clarity that people wanted» At the moment, the new anti-greenwashing regulations document still needs to gain parliamentary support before being put on the statute book, a process that could take years. And while many brand representatives argue that companies will soon lose interest in paying attention to environmental causes, for some activists this should not be a problem. «If there is one thing that is clear, it is that the substantiation, primary data, and information that brands are able to provide is all the better,» said Harding-Rolls. «And if they're not already doing that, they're probably greenwashing.»