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Retailers offer cautious support for new EU rules to tackle green washing

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The European Commission issued a draft legislation on substantiating environmental claims in an effort to formalise an end to ‘green washing’ where retailers, brands and other businesses make claims about their sustainability that are either inaccurate or just plain wrong.

Retailers and wholesalers are working with suppliers to offer more sustainable products, as well as redesigning their own-brand products and their packaging to ensure more recyclability, launching new business models such as repair and re-use of furniture, or enabling renting of electronic devices. 

However, to maximise the benefits of these initiatives, clear rules are needed which enable communication with consumers, avoid imposing unintended barriers and facilitate efforts to offer consumers the products and services they need.

While retailers and wholesalers broadly welcome the move, some have questioned whether it offers a coherent enough framework to dovetail with other green initiatives and legislation retailers across Europe – and for those in the UK, selling into or importing from, Europe – also have to meet.

Christel Delberghe, Director General at EuroCommerce, the association representing retailers and wholesalers in Europe, says: “Retailers and wholesalers agree that consumers need to be assured that environmental claims are properly verified and that they should, equally, be protected from misleading claims. We, therefore, support efforts to address “greenwashing” to protect consumers and to ensure fair competition. Our sector is committed to the transition towards a Circular Economy, and we are already offering an expanding range of sustainable products. We want environmental claims to be transparent and verifiable, which requires clear rules. For these rules to function in the Single Market, creating a full harmonisation and a level playing field will be extremely important, and this would have been best achieved through a Regulation rather than a Directive.”

She adds: “EuroCommerce appreciates the Commission’s initiative to avoid duplication of sustainability labelling for food products, announced under the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, which will be adequately established there. Alignment and coherence with the initiatives under the Farm-to-Fork Strategy is needed to provide the whole supply chain with clarity. Similarly, the new rules on green claims need to be consistent and fully aligned with other initiatives such as the proposal for Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition and the EU Right to Repair initiative, stressed the association.”

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