Sustainable labels: fact-based or greenwashing?








Why do we buy what we buy? Across both scientific and market research, there’s a continuous effort to decode the often overlapping factors driving consumer behaviour. Our very first blog article presented the results of a market survey, reporting that a product’s sustainability plays a major role in influencing shopper’s choices. But how is a product’s sustainability assessed?

There are complex and rigorous frameworks, regulated by international standards, that are used to evaluate a product “footprint”, and different frameworks account for different factors: a simple carbon footprint will evaluate the overall greenhouse gas emissions and removals across the product life cycle, an environmental footprint might include additional elements such as pollution and health hazards. What is common to all, is that those assessments are detailed in rather comprehensive, sometimes obscure, reports. Labels have been developed to communicate the rich, complex background of environmental and social metrics from Life Cycle Assessments to the consumer in a straightforward manner. However, there are some critical issues associated with labels, especially those related to green claims.

On March 12th, the European Parliament has endorsed the Green Claims Directive, a proposal from the European Commission from a year ago for a new system forcing companies to verify and receive pre-approval for any environmental claims in their marketing. This directive aims to protect consumers from unfounded and misleading advertising that label products as “biodegradable” or “less polluting”.

Facts about criticalities towards green labels in the EU, taken from

“It is time to put an end to greenwashing. Our position ends the proliferation of misleading green claims that have deceived consumers for far too long. We will ensure businesses have the right tools to embrace genuine sustainability practices. European consumers want to make sustainable choices; all those offering products or services must guarantee their green claims are scientifically verified.”

Environment Committee rapporteur Cyrus Engerer (S&D, MT), source.

Very relevant to CinSOIL’s mission of insetting carbon emissions, a previous directive from January is banning generic environmental claims as well as green claims based solely on carbon offsetting schemes. Paired with the recent Carbon Removals Certification Framework and a strong commitment to establish rigorous certification schemes, Europe is staying true to its 2050 net zero goals.

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