What do the new regulations want to change?

The European Commission is determined to crack down on environmental money laundering. At the beginning of the month, twenty airlines came under scrutiny for making “potentially misleading” environmental claims. Claims that would mislead customers into believing that they can offset the emissions they generate when they fly by paying additional fees are intended to promote the airlines’ environmental projects or promote the use of sustainable fuels. The Commission calls on them to adapt to European regulations and propose changes within 30 days.

It is the last example of A crusade against so-called greenwashingWhich the European Union wants to eliminate.

Environmental Anti-Money Laundering Law

One was born last February European guidance Which should work to put an end to this practice, which consists of making false claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service or company in order to attract consumer attention.

Countries will now have to change the European standard. The timer to do this has already started, They have until March 2026.

MEP Andrus Ansip, a member of the committee that oversees consumer protection, said the guidance was “balanced and will provide clarity for consumers and is less stressful for employers than the method of verifying through claims.”

“We cannot talk about leveling the playing field for our entrepreneurs, while some are cheating.”

The European battle against environmental money laundering goes back a long way. Already in 2020, with the approval of the European Green Deal, the Commission announced that it would devote all its efforts to Attacking companies’ false environmental claims. The goal is to allow consumers to obtain reliable information about the environmental impact of what they buy.

To prepare the ground, in 2021, as usual Examine the web page Implemented by the European Commission to detect consumer rights violations focused on environmental money laundering. The result was that of all the environmental claims they found, More than 40% of them were false and exaggeratedIt may be considered unfair trade practices.

But what will change with this new rule?

New directive It would prohibit overly general allegations Such as “green”, “environmentally friendly”, “good for nature”, “climate friendly”… because they indicate excellent environmental behavior on the part of the company, which should be proven in advance.

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In fact, the law gives some examples, like now Claim “eco-friendly packaging”. A general statement should be replaced with “100% of the energy used to produce these containers comes from renewable sources,” which is more specific and therefore truthful.

They won’t be allowed either Claims related to climate neutrality Or in the product carbon if it is not supported by clear commitments from the company, and is collected – as the rule says – in a realistic implementation plan equipped with the necessary resources.

Businesses will have to provide honest and accurate recycling information on packaging (Pixabay)

In addition, every claim must be environmental Justified and certified by an independent body. As Manel Balvejo, a professor at California National University and senior advisor at Anthesis, explains, “It changes the rules of the game a little bit, because what it does is that no company can make an environmental claim and then there can be a lawsuit.”

“Before making any environmental claim, you will have to substantiate its validity with an independent third party to verify it.”

The problem of greenwashing It affects not only the consumer but also the sector itself.

“If you have a company that actually makes environmentally friendly products, but you have another company that says it’s environmentally friendly but that’s not true, that breaks up all the competition,” says Josep Hurtado, a lawyer for Ecologists en Acció.

The strength of environmental claims

But what is the impact of these environmental messages? Seconds A survey conducted by the European Commission56% of consumers realized that in at least one of the products they purchased in the week prior to the study, Environmental considerations affected him.

However, the study also reveals that this type of message It generates more and more mistrust. This may be a symptom of increasing abuse by greenwashing companies.

“The first problem is that consumers are fed up and don’t value sustainable products because they think they don’t add any real value.”

Manel Balvijo still points out a third problem, which is this one For fear of facing legal actionHe adds that companies stop announcing their actions in favor of climate change, a phenomenon he calls “green silence,” and “it could make us ignore it and not demand that these companies do anything.”

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However, this desirable silence is harmful, as it slows down the ripple effect that communicating good practices to the rest of the company can have.

Repsol, doubly accused of greenwashing

One of the most common claims about greenwashing in recent months This has happened specifically between companies. In February, Iberdrola accused Repsol in a Santander commercial court of promoting sustainable initiatives when its main activity is selling fuel.

Repsol counterattacked He said the complaint was a response to Iberdrola’s stress and was inspired by the good results achieved by its electrical sales company, which won more customers last year. “The first thing they show is that they are nervous, and secondly, they want to reduce competition,” said its CEO, Josue John Imaz.

From here, the tug-of-war began, with gains also being made by Repsol. A few weeks ago it became known that Automation (Association for Self-Regulation of Business Communications) The oil company, which sued Iberdrola over misleading advertising, was rightto promote air heat, by implying that Europe will gradually ban gas boilers, which has not happened with the latest approved directives.

A young demonstrator in Brisbane reminds us that there is no alternative plan or alternative planet against climate change (Reuters)

Weeks later, it was the NGOs Environmentalists in Action and Greenpeace, along with the consumer union CECU, that filed a complaint. Similar lawsuit against Zero Emissions Campaign Clean Year 2050 by Repsol, where the company emphasizes the role of the biofuels it produces.

“There is a deception here, as their biofuel comes mainly from palm oil, which is not sustainable, it is not traceable, and it is also not true that, as Repsol says, they are reducing their production.” On the contrary, it triples gas emissions.”

The application was submitted by one entity to the CNMC (National Commission for Markets and Competition) and also to the General Directorate of Consumption, which depends on the Ministry. Environmentalists at work are confident that the same thing will happen here as happened with the Italian company Eni 4 years ago, when it was fined 5 million euros after a similar operation.

Legal activity

One of the most important greenwashing rulings in recent months was played by KLM. Environmental group Fossil Free has sued over misleading advertising in the wake of its “Fly Responsible” campaign. They consider this not possible as long as the flights continue One of the major carbon dioxide emitters.

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A Dutch court gave them this right. Despite the sentence It does not oblige them to make any correction, and does not impose any penalty on themis the first on this topic in the aviation sector, and will very likely have an impact on the way airlines advertise going forward.

In Catalonia we also find examples. Ecologists en Acció has filed numerous complaints, but says it has received little response from the Catalan Consumer Agency. One of them was against Nestléto generally state on its website that the Viladru bottling plant protects the environment.

“The last reported action – explains Josep Hurtado – is that they saved the file because the Aigües de Viladru told them that they would review the site.” A position that does not satisfy environmentalists: “We checked the Aigües de Viladrau page and it is true that they have modified the Catalan version, but not the Spanish version. The Spanish version continues with the same misleading environmental statements.”

Nestlé, consulted by TV3, You don’t want to do evaluations On this topic, but it emphasizes that it has a “firm commitment to the collective and sustainable management of environmental resources” and that its will is to demonstrate and explain transparently all the actions it undertakes.

From the Catalan Consumer Agency, they note that of the four complaints filed by the environmental NGO so far, in one they have submitted a disciplinary file, in the other they have submitted an application for corporate adjustment and in the other two they are still in progress. In the analysis stage.

However, they confirm that they have implemented it 29 inspections to control environmental claims to label products regarding their recyclability, which prompted them to open 6 sanctions files. In addition to 6 other energy companies – for a total amount of 200 thousand euros – in exchange for statements that could be considered misleading regarding the origin and product declared, in this case 100% green energy.

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