Consumers are sick of misleading claims – will it stiffen what companies need to prove to make a claim – and move the dial on meaningful decarbonisation?
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) is calling for a ban on all carbon neutral claims on consumer goods. Across Europe some single-use bottled waters, milk, fruit, cheese and products across various categories carry the CO2 neutral claim. BEUC takes issue with this as brands claiming carbon neutrality must neutralise any emissions they can’t decarbonise through offsets. This makes any carbon neutral claims scientifically inaccurate, BEUC argues, as all food and drinks will always necessitate emission of carbon – even bananas. BEUC’s director general Monique Goyens called carbon neutral claims greenwashing, saying it was a smoke screen to give consumers the impression that companies are taking immediate action on their climate impact.
In June the European Parliament voted to ban claims of carbon neutrality based on carbon offsetting. Although non-binding, the vote signals clear intent to crack down on greenwashing that misleads consumers. The Council of the EU, representing the 27 EU countries, isn’t pushing to completely ban the practice but rather wants these claims to be backed “by clear, objective, publicly accessible and verifiable commitments and targets.”
A benefit of moving to more precise language around claims is it necessitates companies re-evaluating how they actually reduce their carbon footprint rather than relying on offsets. In contrast to ‘carbon neutrality’, aiming for ‘net zero’ commits brands to practical, first-hand emissions reduction.