Green claims or greenwashing?

Green claims are self-declarations that the producer transmits to the market to communicate the environmental characteristics of a product, and can therefore be tools adopted to guide consumer choice: they are therefore business practices.

UNI EN 14021 aims to harmonize environmental self-declarations of products in order to communicate only messages that are correct, demonstrable, truthful, and have scientific validity.

Indeed, these principles are fundamental when it comes to green claims and business practices in general in order to avoid the risk of “greenwashing,” i.e., untruthful, misleading, unscientifically verifiable communication; aspects also considered in the Consumer Code.

In this regard, the Italian Antitrust Authority (AGCM)-in order no. 28060 of Dec. 20, 2019 – clarified that environmental claims “must report the environmental benefits of the product in a timely and unambiguous manner, be scientifically verifiable, and, finally, be communicated properly,” and that “a proper environmental claim should convey information that is adequately documented, scientifically ‘verifiable,’ and confined to specific verifiable aspects in a comparative manner with homogeneous products.”

Are there penalties for unfair business practices?

Administrative fines ranging from 5,000.00 euros to 5,000,000 euros are provided, taking into account the seriousness and duration of the violation.

The determination of the unfairness of the business practice is made through an administrative procedure that can be initiated ex officio by the AGCM or upon the report of a consumer, competitor or any other interested party.

What are examples of greenwashing?

  • 100% recyclable. The characteristics of a package determine whether or not it is recyclable, which cannot be measured. Therefore, it makes no sense to accompany this characteristic with a percentage measure.
  • Use of unofficial and/or self-made brands to communicate packaging sustainability. The proliferation of environmental labels and messages generates greater consumer confusion. It is important to refer to a standard to adopt a language and code that is unambiguous and understandable to consumers.
  • Statements that do not report reliable information that supports what is claimed, as well as vague, unclear, insignificant information. For example, generic statements such as“Sustainable/ecological/low-impact/zero-impact/eco-friendly/environmentally friendly/green/natural packaging” are unreliable unless validated by scientific data and criteria.

Last modified on 04/10/2023