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EU law banning greenwashing to empower consumers for the green transition

MEP vows to clear the chaos of unsubstantiated environmental claims
NE GLOBAL
Croatian MEP Bijana Borzan talks to NE Global in an interview in Strasbourg, France

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Companies can no longer market their goods using unfounded claims about their environmental impact and durability, Croatian MEP Bijana Borzan told NE Global in an interview in Strasbourg.

A new law banning greenwashing and misleading product information was adopted by the European Parliament on January 17. “Every product which is placed on a European market wherever it comes from has to be compliant with this directive so it means that we will force or motivate companies, including Asian or American companies, to make products more sustainable, better quality products and since the European Union is very often avant-garde when it comes many issues, we hope that we will also make an impact to the rest of the world,” Borzan said, who steered the legislation through Parliament and led the negotiations with the Council.

A member of the Parliament’s committee of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Borzan argued that the law would empower consumers for the green transition. “We hope we will motivate the others since they will have to produce better quality products complying with the rules that apply throughout the EU why shouldn’t they use the same production line and make a product for other markets in the world equally with a good quality and sustainability,” she said.

Borzan said this also applies to China. “Even those products today are of better quality in Europe. I’m not sure in China or other parts of the world. But in European Union’s market Chinese products have to be totally made in accordance with our laws so we just force them to make products of a better quality,” she said.

Turning to the targets set by the EU, she said, “This is one of the very important pieces of the puzzle because we have a very ambitious goal in front of us. In this term we didn’t have time to do everything because, of course, it is a process that is extremely complicated and it’s impossible to do things overnight. So, it means this is one of the very important contributions to the green goals that we set ourselves for 2050 and I think that it’s extremely important that citizens are involved. Because we all look at the industry. But we as individuals can contribute a lot,” Borzan said.

“When you do things in the right way, and I do and all the other 400 million Europeans, when you add all those small impacts then you have the biggest impact. So, it’s extremely important that we raise awareness,” she said.

She said consumers play a crucial role in promoting green practices, and many are keen to ensure they consume more sustainably but are often misled by claims as to a product’s climate friendliness/sustainability.

Borzan vowed to clear the chaos of unsubstantiated environmental claims. “Citizens in every European country are increasingly interested to make their contribution. They want to do some good deed when they are shopping because when they see some kind of mark,  — oh this is environmentally friendly, I would like to contribute to this positive change.  Unfortunately, what’s going on today when they come home and they see this mark they couldn’t be sure that behind that small green tree or a leaf or I don’t know which label, they couldn’t be sure that it’s 100 percent true and that is something that is worrying and this is what we are changing,” Borzan argued.

Fines for false green claims 

The EU lawmaker from Croatia warned that companies can already be subject to significant fines of up to 4 percent of their annual turnover for not complying with this directive. “It’s a huge amount of money so I think they will be totally terrified. Of course, in every member state it’s extremely important that everything is verified from time to time on a regular basis so we can in that way see if somebody is not doing their job in accordance with this legislation,” Borzan said.

The MEP said the EU ban on greenwashing faced resistance from the industry. “Of course, they are not happy because they prefer this way of doing things: buy, buy, buy every day, every month. It’s easier for them because it gives them the biggest profit. But I think they’re also aware of the situation. They’re also aware that this is unsustainable for many years and the situation is alarming,” Borzan argued. “At the beginning I expected even more resistance from the industry but the relations and my talks with them, meetings that I had with them were really in a fair and correct way so nothing unpleasant happened because I think that the time has come to change things,” she said.

As the largest trading bloc globally, the EU is the primary trading partner for more than 80 countries. “This is our leverage. Because when you negotiate – for example, I come from a country with less than four million inhabitants, so when the Croatian government negotiates with industry their position is extremely weak,” she said, adding, “but if we act from the European level – 430 million or so – this is something totally different and, of course, industry looks at us with respect and they know that we mean things very seriously.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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