The European Commission invites Greenwashing, Ecodesign Rule – WWD to ‘Black List’

On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed updated consumer protections, a “blacklist” for greenwashing and more as part of a package to make sustainable products the norm.

Since the Commission adopted its proposal on a directive to “empower consumers for the green transition”, it is now seeking to refine existing consumer law directives so that consumers can make informed and environmentally friendly choices. environment when they buy their products. The Commission’s proposal for eco-design rules (which will impose digital passports for products and extended producer responsibility schemes, or EPR) was also presented, as it aims to crack down on fast fashion.

The latest proposal builds on existing advances under the Circular Economy Action Plan, such as the Sustainable Products Initiative (also adopted on Wednesday) and upcoming initiatives on validating green claims (which wraps around the environmental footprint of the product) and the right to repair.

The efforts underpin the European Commission’s broader goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and its goal of ensuring that textiles placed on the EU market are “durable and recyclable”, “free of dangerous substances” and produced in “respect for social rights and the environment”, by 2030.

“If we don’t start consuming more sustainably, we won’t reach our European Green Deal goals, it’s that simple,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a press release. “While most consumers are willing to contribute, we have also seen an increase in greenwashing and early obsolescence. To become the true actors of the green transition, consumers must have the right to information to make sustainable choices. They must also be protected against unfair commercial practices that abuse their interest in buying green ”.

In particular, the Commission intends to amend the Consumer Rights Directive which concerns the disclosure on the durability and repairability of products. This means that consumers have a right to know how long a product is designed to last and whether it can be repaired. If a two-year warranty or duration clause is offered, it must be clear before purchase, as well as any applicable software updates and “repairability scores”.

And manufacturers or vendors must provide the information in a “clear and understandable way”, both on the packaging and in the product descriptions on the website.

The Commission also proposes several amendments to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive to keep greenwashing at bay.

This means that product characteristics are expanded to include environmental or social impact as well as durability and repairability. Furthermore, making an environmental claim relating to future environmental performance without “clear, objective and verifiable commitments and objectives and without an independent monitoring system” will not be part of the proposal.

There is also a new “black list” of behaviors which includes: Not informing about features introduced to limit durability, such as a software feature; make generic, vague or unverified environmental claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “eco” or “green”; making generalized environmental claims for an entire product when, in reality, only one aspect of a product is affected; display a voluntary sustainability label that has not been verified by third parties or established by public authorities; and do not inform of the limited functionality of an asset at the time of the renovation.

As part of the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, ecodesign requirements for textiles include: a digital product passport and a mandatory EU extended producer responsibility scheme. It also includes measures to counter the “inadvertent release of microplastics from textiles”, the accuracy of ecological claims and to promote circular business models (such as reuse and repair).

“To tackle fast fashion, the Strategy also invites companies to reduce the number of collections per year, take responsibility and take action to minimize their carbon and environmental footprints, and Member States to take fiscal measures. favorable for the reuse and repair sector “, reads the Commission statement.

The proposals will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament. Once adopted and transposed into the national legislation of the Member States, consumers will be entitled to certain remedies.

In the absence of regulation, sustainability labeling has become a profitable opportunity.

Today the Commission reports 230 voluntary eco-labels, 901 labeling systems in the food sector and 100 private green energy labels. Currently, only 35% of sustainability labels require specific data to demonstrate compliance with the labeling requirements.

For upcoming initiatives, the public consultation is open until 5 April and a number of stakeholders have already provided public comments in the open comment forum.

NGOs The Biomimicry Institute, Eco-Age consultancy firm and Fibershed have expressed “caution” in online PEF-related feedback forums. Even the cosmetics association Cosmetics Europe – which represents the interests of European members such as The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Coty Inc., Chanel Beauty, Johnson & Johnson, among others – commented on the ecological claims, pointing to a “chain of value / sectoral European harmonized framework ”which is specific to products using shampoo as an example.

“In our opinion, it is unlikely that only one method (such as the Product Environmental Footprint can be used for all sectors concerned,” reads a comment on behalf of Cosmetics Europe. “Furthermore, at present, there are general problems with PEF method regarding data quality and availability, standardization, comparability etc., and therefore further development is needed.A PEF case study conducted on shampoos by Cosmetics Europe revealed that PEF would not be specific enough to allow differentiation between products in a similar product category and has not provided any indication on how its results could be communicated in a clear and meaningful way to consumers “.

Organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund Europe have advocated the option of establishing a binding EU-wide legal framework for environmental claims, while others have sought voluntary means.

The Policy Hub, launched by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in collaboration with the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry and Global Fashion Agenda, also offered comments.

“The Policy Hub welcomes the opportunity to comment on the European Commission’s initial impact assessment ‘Legislative proposal on proof of ecological claims.’ We recommend that the European Commission further explore option 2 “Establish a voluntary EU legal framework that allows companies to submit eco-claims in accordance with EF methods, complementing existing methods (developed by private entities or public, nationally or internationally), ‘”noted the Policy Hub.

“We are convinced that a collaborative effort is needed to support the development of standardized tools and methodologies to prove environmental and social claims,” ​​he continued his statement. “Therefore, we are in favor of the Product Environmental Footprint methodology to corroborate the sustainability claims made at the product level. For the claims made at the brand level we cannot support the Organizational Environmental Footprint, given its methodological shortcomings and scalability problems. “

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