This blog is 100% carbon neutral. Or is it?

Climate change looks set to remain top of the agenda.

From global summits on emissions targets to local efforts to reduce environmental impact, many individuals, organisations and businesses are feeling the pressure to do their bit.

For years we’ve noticed an increasing number of brands making inflated claims about how they are ‘eco-friendly’, ‘climate neutral’ or ‘sustainable’ without little explanation of what they actually mean. Are they simply jumping on the green bandwagon or are they making serious changes to the way they operate? And how does your average consumer – many of whom are time poor – make decisions about which brands are true to their word?

In recent weeks, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims. The Proposal supports the fight against ‘greenwashing’, harmonising the evaluation and monitoring of ‘green claims’ and controlling the proliferation of public and private environmental labels.

It comes off the back of similar measures from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), but seems to go much further.

For the first time – if a little belated – the Directive proposes that brands will be required to substantiate and verify green claims, which will be monitored and enforced.

Key requirements include that:

  • Green claims are substantiated by relying on widely recognised scientific evidence and taking into account relevant international standards
  • Green claims highlighting efforts to improve environmental performance must include commitments and timeframe
  • There is better transparency on CO2 offsetting – analysing company’s own operations versus purchase of offsets
  • Evidence for claims must be made available in a physical form, web link, QR code or equivalent
  • The substantiation and communication of green claims are subject to third party verification prior to it being made public

The crackdown is great news for consumers and will come as a relief for many businesses that are already making genuine efforts to improve the environmental sustainability of their products and services.

What will be interesting to see over the coming months is how the EU will enforce the green claims – fining companies might be the only way to truly do this and will likely be a headache to police, given the abundance of claims out there.

But the direction this is taking is positive and the message is clear to brands who have a responsibility to explain how they are tackling some of the most important challenges on the planet.