The EU's forthcoming Green Claims Directive is one step closer as the Council of the EU has adopted its general approach.  The Council has amended the Directive in a few areas. The Directive is relevant for businesses operating in the EU, but also if you are trading in the UK. This is because it might indicate potential changes to the UK's own regulatory landscape, given that the EU is arguably leading the race.  The outgoing UK government has said that current UK rules about unfair commercial practices are sufficient to combat greenwashing.  However, after the UK's General Election, a new government might take a different line.

The Council agreed on its approach towards the scope, evidence basis, verification procedures, environmental labels and climate-related claims.

Scope and evidence

The Directive will explicitly cover environmental claims (written or oral) and labels used voluntarily when marketing environmental impact, aspects or performance. 

Substantiation should be based on the latest scientific evidence in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, with a specific reference to environmental characteristics. 

Verification & public environmental labels

Any green claim would have to be verified by a third-party independent expert before being published. However, certain claims will be exempt from this and subject to a simplified procedure, which will require completion of a technical document before the claim's publication. 

Whilst a new public labelling scheme may be introduced, EN ISO 14024 type 1 ecolabeling schemes will be exempt from verification if they are officially recognised in a member state and comply with the new rules. 

Climate-related claims 

The Council has added new requirements around climate-related carbon credit claims. Climate-related claims are those based on carbon “credits” generated outside company's course of business, such as forestry or renewable energy projects. Claimants will now have to provide information about the type and quantity of carbon credits, and whether they are permanent or temporary. 

This is part of the EU's Circular Economy activities.  The Council has also adopted its position on the targeted revision of the waste framework directive, with a focus on food and textile waste. The Green Claims Directive also complements the recent Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition.

What happens next?

The Council's general approach will form the basis for informal trialogue negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission following June's European elections.  Watch this space!