Environmental claims are voluntary claims that provide environmental information in the context of a commercial approach by highlighting an environmental characteristic of the service, product and/or its packaging. In February 2020, the AGEC law provided for the harmonisation and better supervision of these claims and it’s being modified. Explanations in this article!
What do we mean when we talk about green claims?
Environmental claims are statements made by a company, organisation or individual about the environmental impact of their products, services, activities or practices.
These claims can include claims about the use of recycled materials, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, protection of biodiversity, preservation of natural resources, sustainability, renewable energy… Environmental claims can be used to promote products or services that are considered green or environmentally friendly. Of course, these claims are supposed to be supported by sound scientific evidence and must not be misleading or deceptive to the consumer.
And yet, we can see that greenwashing was still very much present.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that some companies use to make people believe that they have eco-responsible practices or that their products are ecological and environmentally friendly. In reality, the brand will direct its marketing by using the ecological argument to develop a good image with consumers, who are increasingly sensitive to the ecological cause. This practice is considered to be misleading advertising since the customer is deceived.
In France, the Climate and Resilience Act was passed two years ago to sanction this marketing strategy. We explained all about it in a previous article. Unfortunately, misleading environmental claims continue to exist in many companies.
The AGEC law has planned to go further. We explain.
What does the law say about environmental claims?
Article L13 of the law on the fight against waste and the circular economy of 10 February 2020 (AGEC) provides for the harmonisation, framing and clarification, in terms of content and presentation, of a certain number of environmental claims.
According to the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, this text now includes a prohibition component applicable to certain claims. For example, “environmentally friendly”, “biodegradable” or similar, because they are confusing for the consumer.
The decree in Council of State n°2022-748 of 29 April 2022 specifies the different legal definitions of Q&C (environmental qualities and characteristics of waste generating products) as well as the modalities for making information available.
In concrete terms, what are the changes? Since 1 January 2023, producers or importers who meet certain criteria must make available to consumers information relating to:
- Compostability, incorporation of recycled material, reusability, recyclability, presence of precious metals and rare earths, presence of hazardous substances, geographical traceability and presence of plastic microfibres.
- The premiums or penalties paid for each product for its environmental performance.
Each product must be the subject of a “product sheet of environmental qualities and characteristics”, which will be made available online.
The DGCCRF, the French Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Control, will strengthen controls from 2023 on environmental claims for cosmetic products.
Good news for the planet
As we explained to you, many environmental claims are still false and turn into greenwashing. If the AGEC law becomes tougher, it can only be good news for the environment!
Manufacturers will have to provide consumers with real information, which will be increasingly verified by the DGCCRF. We are counting on transparency and reliability of producers, who will have to be irreproachable on the information given on the environmental impact of their products.
Consumers will then be able to obtain real answers to their questions, while learning more about the origin of the product, its recyclability, any toxic products, traceability, etc. They will also be able to find out whether the environmental performance of the product is good or bad. Thus, the consumer will no longer be drowned by the flow of bad information.
Moreover, as producers have to pay attention to what they put on their labels, this may encourage them to rework their formulas. Some will want to promote good products and be able to make real environmental claims that show the commitment of the brand.
Those who continue to offer formulas that do not necessarily respect the environment will no longer be able to boast of doing so. Consumers will no longer be misled, so there will be fewer green sales arguments. If the ecological argument is no longer put forward, perhaps there will be fewer sales and there will be a common ecological awareness.
Environmental claims have become increasingly common in advertisements and product labels. However, it is important to be cautious when assessing these claims to ensure that they are based on concrete and verifiable facts. This is why there is an urgent need for a stricter framework and control of these claims. Thanks to the AGEC law, the collective environmental conscience can change!