EU bans “greenwashing” | Can green environmental claims and labels such as “carbon neutrality” no longer be used?

Recently, the European Union reached a provisional agreement (hereinafter referred to as the "Agreement") on new rules that ban misleading advertising and provide consumers with better product information, with a view to empowering consumers to achieve green consumption transformation, and also provide guidance for the upcoming "Green "Consumption Directive" paves the way. The agreement lists 8 prohibitions related to "greenwashing" and durability, aiming to strengthen the protection of consumers from unfair business practices and promote green consumption.

Rapporteur Biljana Borzan spoke at the meeting

Source: Multimedia Center of the European Parliament

01 Event丨The EU announced a provisional agreement to prohibit "greenwashing" behaviors that mislead consumers

The agreement enhances consumer rights by amending two directives that protect consumer interests (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC and Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU). More specifically, the proposal helps consumers make informed purchasing decisions by updating the list of prohibited business practices such as “greenwashing”, thereby contributing to more sustainable consumption and a circular, clean and green EU economy.

The agreement is also part of the EU's circular economy package and paves the way for the Green Claims Directive proposed this year. The Green Claims Directive will further stipulate the conditions for making environmental claims in the future and will be applicable to clarify specific aspects of environmental claims [3].

02 Interpretation | The “greenwashing” prohibitions in the agreement that deserve attention

The goal of the agreement is to protect consumers from being misled and thereby help them make better purchasing choices. The lack of common regulations on some companies' voluntary green statements has led to "greenwashing" behavior and brought an unfair competitive environment to the EU market, which is not conducive to truly sustainable companies. From the following survey, it is easy to see that the authenticity of environmental statements currently on the market is not high, and consumers' trust is worrying.

In order to give full play to the role of consumers in accelerating the green transition and enhance the EU's green market potential by empowering consumers, the agreement updates the EU's existing list of prohibited business practices and lists 8 items related to "greenwashing" and durability claims. Prohibited items, among which the prohibited items and their interpretations related to "greenwashing" are as follows.

In summary, all general environmental statements need to be certified by a third party, and self-declaration is absolutely not advisable; all statements based on emission offset plans must not erase information about the impact of the product on the environment during the actual production process, and must Seek truth from facts; refuse to abuse privately-made labels. All labels must be approved or formulated by public agencies.

03 Case | "Greenwashing" is everywhere

Examples of "greenwashing" happen around us all the time, but we just don't pay attention or realize it. Here are some typical examples from the industry:

Conscious or unconscious "greenwashing" behavior exists in all walks of life. Once discovered, in addition to being subject to financial penalties, companies will pay unpredictable determination and costs in order to restore their image and reputation.

04 Basis|China’s “Greenwashing” Laws

There are currently no laws and regulations specifically regulating "greenwashing" advertising in our country. They are mainly composed of the Anti-Unfair Competition Law of the People's Republic of China, the Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China, the Consumer Rights Protection Law of the People's Republic of China, and the People's Republic of China Legal norms such as the Product Quality Law of the Republic of China and the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China [8]. Measures such as the "Administrative Measures for the Legal Disclosure of Enterprise Environmental Information" and the "Administrative Measures for the Use of Green Product Labels" have made corresponding supplements to the requirements for compliance disclosure of corporate environmental management information and the use of product labels.

Image source: Analysis on “Greenwashing” Advertising Compliance

05 Suggestions | How companies can avoid greenwashing - learn, accept, reject

1. Learn the knowledge of “greenwashing”. Corporate environmental managers (especially carbon emission managers) should prepare relevant knowledge reserves, constantly update industry information and new regulations, maintain sensitivity and vigilance against "greenwashing" or "carbon bleaching", and prevent unconscious greenwashing from the source. Behavior. Fully understand the difference between "carbon neutrality" and "zero emissions", rationally use carbon credits to offset corporate carbon emissions, and do not erase or deliberately conceal information about the environmental impact of the product's actual production process in the statement. Starting from corporate carbon inventory, we analyze key carbon reduction links, implement carbon reduction measures, and reduce carbon emissions from the source from the perspectives of digital empowerment and technological innovation.

2. Accept doubts and supervision from the outside world. Implement national laws, regulations, management measures and other requirements, and truly disclose environmental information such as carbon emissions. Accept the questioning and supervision of consumers and supervisory agencies, ensure the traceability, transparency and openness of data, and ensure the consistency between the actual situation and the publicity made.

3. Refuse to abuse the logo. Environmental statements, labels, etc. used in corporate and product promotion and packaging must undergo compliance third-party certification. Be sure to distinguish the difference between labels that have obtained third-party certification and labels based on "self-certification" (that is, self-identification without any third-party verification). Refuse to abuse privately-made labels. All labels must be approved or approved by public agencies. formulated. The statements made must be traceable and evidence-based. Don't take chances and lose big for small things.

06 Conclusion | Green environmental protection VS greenwashing, can claims and labels no longer be used?

Rejecting greenwashing does not mean rejecting green environmental protection. The agreement issued by the EU does not arbitrarily reject the use of all environmental statement labels and statements, but it covers business practices that are actually "greenwashing" in the name of environmental protection. Shackles provides a fair competitive environment for the market and protects companies with truly sustainable development.

Labels that claim “recognized evidence of superior environmental performance” or are “based on an approved certification scheme or developed by a public body” can still be used. In one sentence, it can be summarized as follows: It is not that it cannot be used, but it must be used reasonably, compliantly and legally, and third-party audit and verification is indispensable. Companies are encouraged to carry out and disclose plans and actions to address climate change, but all promotional data, text, and icons must be based on science and be able to withstand scrutiny and verification. Typical cases can be referred to: Not long ago, SBTi delisted companies that could not verify their goals.

Although there are currently no laws and regulations against "greenwashing" advertising in China, the Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Advertising Law, Consumer Rights Protection Law and other laws and regulations prohibit false publicity, misleading publicity, and misuse of labels. There are restrictions, and there are currently relevant cases of penalties in China. As a pioneer in the world's response to climate change, the EU's legal directives have certain reference value. China, as the mainstay of the international response to climate change, has continuously improved its "double carbon" laws, regulations, management measures, etc. in recent years. In the future, it will have The trend towards zero tolerance is foreseeable.


[1] 欧洲议会和理事会2005年5月11日颁布的不公平商业行为指令(2005/29/EC),涉及内部市场中企业对消费者的不公平商业行为,修订了理事会指令84/450/EEC、97/7/EC、98/ 27/EC 和2002/65/EC以及欧洲议会和理事会第2006/2004号条例(OJ L 149, 11.6.2005, p. 22)

[2] 欧洲议会和理事会 2011 年 10 月 25 日关于消费者权利的指令 2011/83/EU,修订了指令93/13/EEC和指令1999/44/EC,并废除指令85 /577/EEC以及指令97/7/EC(OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 64)

[3] 根据《不公平商业行为指令(2005/29/EC)》第3(4)条,在发生冲突的情况下,《绿色声明指令》优先于2005/29/EC中规定的要求

[4]Environmental claims in the EU: Inventory and reliability assessment Final report, European Commission 2020

[5] 2020 – sweep on misleading sustainability claims,  Sweeps (  

[6] Environmental performance of products & businesses – substantiating claims (


[8] “漂绿”广告宣传合规探析