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Food company, meet the requirements of the Green Claims Directive

Emma Valli

Marketing Coordinator

In March 2023, the European Commission issued the so-called the Green Claims Directive proposal, which aims to ensure that different environmental claims are accurate, comparable and do not mislead consumers – what does this mean for food companies?

According to the proposal, consumers should get better clarity that the product or service really is environmentally friendly if it is marketed as such. Companies that genuinely improve their operations and reduce the environmental impact of their products will benefit from the proposal.

Make sure already now that your company’s environmental claims are in line with the Green Claims directive. Claims must be clear, precise and based on appropriate information. Claims must not give consumers a false impression of the product’s environmental impact.

In the European Parliament, the proposal for a EU law aimed at preventing greenwashing was approved on January 17, 2024, with an incredible vote of 593 in favor and 21 against. Next, it will go for approval to the European Council, after which it will become legislation in member states after a 24-month transition period. This regulation will work in conjunction with the Green Claims Directive, which is still under consideration in Parliament in January 2024.

Reliable, comparable and verifiable information available to European consumers

Going forward, green claims must be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence if they are used for commercial purposes and in consumer communications. As part of the scientific analysis, companies must identify the environmental effects that are really relevant for their product.

The rules given in the Directive ensure that environmental claims are presented clearly. For example, claims or labels that use a combined score of the product’s overall environmental impact would no longer be allowed. If products or organizations are compared with others, comparable data should be used.

The world already has local legislation limiting greenwashing. The coming EU directive aims to unify legislation and thus equalize competition at the European level.

Some countries have already seen notices and even fines for greenwashing based on local laws. For example, the Swedish consumer ombudsman has fined Arla for greenwashing.

The ruling is good because many consumers want to shop with regard to the environment but may find it difficult to know what climate footprint a product leaves. Therefore, it is extra important that companies take their responsibility and do not exaggerate in advertising.

Ida Nyström, process counsel, KO

Food company: Ensure these 6 things when creating green claims

Your company may be doing many great climate actions as part of responsibility program. Maybe you chose renewable energy as the energy source for your production facilities? Or changed your product’s packaging material to a more ecological, or even made your logistics chains more efficient?

Great! Now you certainly want to communicate about good deeds, but what do you dare to communicate when the regulation is increasing? How can a food company in particular ensure that communication meets the requirements of the Green Claims directive? At least make sure that:

1️⃣ The food’s environmental claims are accurate, comparable and based on researched evidence.

  • If you compare your product with a competitor, the comparison must be made using the same methods.

2️⃣ The claims are clear and understandable: consumers should not have to guess what the claim means.

  • For example, “Sustainably fished” can be a message that does not sufficiently open up to the consumer.

3️⃣ Environmental claims are relevant in terms of the product’s environmental impact.

  • In environmental claims, you cannot focus on things that are irrelevant in terms of scale.

4️⃣ The claims are generally accepted and can be verified. Consumers must be able to trust the company’s claims.

  • Also remember that the claims must be verified by a third party.

5️⃣ The claim provides information on whether the food product is significantly better from an environmental point of view than the legislation determines or what is the general practice.

  • Marketing should not be exaggerated: if all products are generally on the same line, no one can communicate their own exaggerated excellence.

6️⃣ You openly report greenhouse gas emission credits also know as “off-setting”.

  • The actual credited amount and implementation method of the label “the carbon footprint of the product has been credited” must be opened.

A food’s carbon footprint is a clear measure of responsibility – if calculated correctly

A Product’s carbon footprint is a good and clear measure for assessing climate impacts. If calculated correctly, the carbon footprint is based on researched information and enables influencing production methods. Calculations based on real supply chain production data help to identify areas where emissions can be reduced.

Read also: Carbon footprint calculation is knowledge-based responsibility

As a measure, the carbon footprint is clear to consumers and is easily verifiable. When the methodologies used for the calculation and the results of the calculation are openly available, it is easier to communicate responsibility.

Nowadays, it is also relatively easy to calculate the carbon footprint – even without long and painful one-off calculations carried out by consultants. The technology enables long-term calculation, from initial production to the store shelf. Try it yourself!

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