17 September 2020

Wanted: More and better information for environment-conscious consumers

ECOS has submitted its views on two newly planned EU legislative initiatives to empower consumers for the “green transition” and for better “substantiated green claims”– two key pieces in the Circular Economy Action Plan and the New Consumer Agenda.

It is not easy for consumers to take climate-conscious purchasing decisions. The information displayed on the product labels is often insufficient, inaccurate or even misleading. To empower consumers in their choices, ECOS is calling on the European Commission to set new rules that force manufacturers to include clear and accurate information related to the environmental impact of their products.  

In our response to the public consultation on “the role of consumers in the green transition” launched by the Commission, we argue that a new dedicated regulatory instrument must be proposed instead of a simple reform of the existing consumer protection legislation. It should set new rules for the mandatory provision of information to consumers on sustainability aspects while protecting people against environmentally damaging commercial practices.

In addition, we advocate for this new regulatory instrument to be coupled with mandatory product-specific provisions (e.g. under Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations). This way we would ensure the effective promotion of durability, interoperability, reparability, upgradability, reusability and recyclability of products, as well as metrics in support of regulatory requirements which are fit for purpose.

Green claims in advertising? Yes, but only if based on reality

In our response to the public consultation on ‘substantiating green claims’, we highlighted the need for companies to substantiate their environmental claims by establishing a mandatory EU framework using the Product Environmental Footprint methodology. We also warned against green claims hiding impacts or resulting in burden shifting. A product’s information should reflect its overall environmental performance – only in this case can green claims potentially be made.

We also stressed the need for type I ecolabel (such as the EU Ecolabel, the Blue Angel or the Nordic Swan) to remain the preferred solution for manufacturers to communicate an overall superior, best-in-class environmental profile to their customers. These are indeed the best suited solution to provide a clear, relevant, verifiable environmental information.

These new EU initiatives are expected to promote sustainable consumption patterns through better consumer information, prevent premature obsolescence and promote the repair of products, as well as tackle false and misleading claims on the environmental sustainability of products.

While ECOS supports both initiatives, as well as the strive for sustainable products to become the norm in the EU, we highlighted that better information to customers will not be enough. The authorities must remove inefficient, toxic, wasteful and polluting products from the EU market altogether, which should be complemented with better consumer information but not driven by it.

Read our full responses to the public consultations below to find out more:

 

ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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