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The Green Claims Directive – what's next for green claims in the EU?

23 March 2023

While at the beginning of its legislative journey and a Directive which will be implemented differently across the EU, the Green Claims Directive marks a significant step forward – we've summarised the key points to know.

Greenwashing has become part of our everyday language and allegations of greenwashing appear to be made so frequently that some businesses are becoming afraid of making green claims at all for fear of backlash. 

As there have been very few agreed definitions or methodologies, even well referenced and supported claims were at risk. Even more so when people considered all of the activities of a business when assessing its specific claim on a specific topic. While some Member States have guidance similar to that issued by the CMA which provides a limited degree of assistance, all parties have been desperate for clarity. On 22 March 2023 the EU took its first steps towards providing that clarity by introducing a proposal on the Green Claims Directive ('GCD').

What does the GCD do?

The GCD regulates explicit environmental claims and puts in place mandatory substantiation requirements and also requirements for environmental labelling schemes. 

While at the beginning of its journey through the legislative process and a Directive which will be implemented differently across the EU, the GCD marks a very significant step forward. It is clear that the days of making quick and easy environmental claims about a product are over.

While it will attract negative commentary, it is positive to have clarity around what is required. We will cover a few of the key elements in this briefing.

What is an Environmental Claim?

The GCD will pick up the broad definitions in the proposed amendment of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive  for 'Environmental Claim'; 'Explicit Environmental Claims (EEC)' and 'Generic Environmental Claim'. ‘Environmental Claim’ has a very broad definition and means:

any message or representation, which is not mandatory under Union law or national law, including text, pictorial, graphic or symbolic representation, in any form, including labels, brand names, company names or product names, in the context of a commercial communication, which states or implies that a product or trader has a positive or no impact on the environment or is less damaging to the environment than other products or traders, respectively, or has improved their impact over time.

The GCD proposes to primarily regulate EEC, which are a subset of Environmental Claims covering 'an environmental claim that is in textual form or contained in an environmental label'.  

What exactly is meant by the EEC definition, particularly 'textual form' (as environmental label is defined) will be interesting to see develop and perhaps get amended as the legislation makes its way through the legislative process – as the Environmental Claim definition uses the word 'text' and then also gives examples such as brand names and product names, whereas the EEC definition is more stark. It's not difficult to imagine marketing teams finding creative ways to make claims without words in an impactful manner, perhaps unforeseen by the EU. 

What is required to substantiate?  

Gone are the days where the business can decided what evidence it would hold to substantiate a claim. To make an EEC, traders with 10 or more employees with a turnover of €2 million or above, must carry out an assessment made up of 10 criteria, including:

  • demonstrating that environmental impacts, environmental aspects or environmental performance that are considerations subject to the claim are significant from a life-cycle perspective;
  • separating any greenhouse gas emissions offsets used from greenhouse gas emissions as additional environmental information, and providing specific information regarding those offsets;
  • where a claim is made on environmental performance, take into account all environmental aspects or environmental impacts which are significant to assessing the environmental performance;
  • provide information whether the product or trader which is subject to the claim performs significantly better regarding environmental impacts, environmental aspects or environmental performance which is subject to the claim than what is common practice for products in the relevant product group or traders in the relevant sector; and
  • include relevant secondary information for environmental impacts, environmental aspects, or environmental performance which is representative of the specific value chain of the product or the trader on which a claim is made, in cases where no primary information is available.

In addition, there is the mandatory requirement that information on the product or the trader that is the subject of the explicit environmental claim and the substantiation for the claim be made available together with the claim in a physical form or in the form of a weblink, QR code. Whether "together with" will be taken to mean "somewhere on the packaging" or "immediately after" will remain to be seen. 

The minimum information that must be provided will cover:

  1. environmental aspects, environmental impacts or environmental performance covered by the claim;
  2. the relevant EU or international standards, where appropriate;
  3. the underlying studies or calculations used to assess, measure and monitor the environmental impacts, environmental aspects or environmental performance covered by the claim, without omitting the results of such studies or calculations and, explanations of their scope, assumptions and limitations, unless the information is a "trade secret" ;
  4. a brief explanation how the improvements that are subject to the claim are achieved;
  5. the certificate of conformity regarding the substantiation of the claim and the contact information of the verifier that drew up the certificate of conformity;
  6. for climate-related explicit environmental claims that rely on greenhouse gas emission offsets, information to which extent they rely on offsets, and whether these relate to emissions reductions or removals; and
  7. a summary of the assessment including the elements listed in this paragraph that is clear and understandable to the consumers targeted by the claim and that is provided in at least one of the official languages of the Member State where the claim is made. 

So it's no longer a case of the trader just having such information the trader considers substantiates the claim available to hand should it be requested, substantiation is going to need to be much fuller and more available than ever for all to check. 

There are specific additional requirements for the substantiation of comparative explicit environmental claims that appear to apply to a trader's own product comparisons as well as competitors. 

Environmental Labelling Schemes ('ELS')

The GCD sets out specific requirements for ELS (defined as 'a certification scheme which certifies that a product, a process or a trader complies with the requirements for an environmental label') whilst at the same time curtailing the introduction of any new scheme after the Directive is transposed. From this point on, any new ELS must be established by EU law (although ELS which are already in place at that date may continue). 

Ultimately, the EU will publish a list of a list of officially recognised environmental labels that are allowed in the EU.

ELS established by private operators and in third countries must be approved by Member States and the Commission respectively before they can be used. The Commission will pass implementing laws to provide detailed requirements for approval of ELS, the format of supporting documents and procedural rules.

New verification and verifier requirements

In addition to this, Member States are required to set up procedures to verify the substantiation and communication of EEC against the requirements of the GCD. The "verifier" will be a third-party conformity assessment body accredited by the national accreditation body, and this accreditation will need to specifically cover compliance with seven requirements as stated in the GCD including that the verifier must:

  • be independent of the product bearing, or the trader associated to, the environmental claim;
  • have the expertise, equipment and infrastructure required to perform the verification activities in relation to which it has been accredited; and
  • have a sufficient number of suitably qualified and experienced personnel responsible for carrying out the verification tasks.


Unusually, the EU requires Member States to put in place penalties for infringements. Those penalties must be 'effective, proportionate and dissuasive'. In addition, it also mandates that consumers should be able to bring an action too. This should be considered alongside the EU's movement to adopt group litigation and similar wording that appears in the EU's Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. 

What's next?

Once law, Member States will have 18 months from entry into force of the Directive to adopt National laws which will apply 6 months after that.

As with all Directives, the GCD will need to be implemented into each EU Member State's law, which means that in the usual way, there will be 27 variants and some might adopt higher standards. 

While, the law is a little way off, this will be a big change when it comes and one which will not only affect traders in the EU. As everyone using multi-lingual cross-jurisdiction packaging knows, on-pack space is about to get even more scarce.

We have huge experience in advising on green and sustainability claims and get in touch to discuss how we can support making your campaign a success.


  • https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52022PC0143 see amendments to Article 2 2005/29/EC
  • 2 Article 2 paragraph 1 of Directive (EU) 2016/943 defines trade secret as information which meets all of the following: (a) it is secret in the sense that it is not, as a body or in the precise configuration and assembly of its components, generally known among or readily accessible to persons within the circles that normally deal with the kind of information in question; (b) it has commercial value because it is secret; and (c) it has been subject to reasonable steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control of the information, to keep it secret.

Further Reading