14 December 2023

Greenwashing in the B2C business? - Check your marketing strategy!

  • Articles
  • Compliance
  • Legal
  • Banking / Insurance
  • Governance / ESG

Greenwashing is not only a major issue in the financial world:

No, even in the B2C business, more and more companies are advertising their products, services or the company itself as "sustainable" or "green", etc. In order to combat so-called "greenwashing" - the deliberate misleading of consumers regarding the environmental impact of products or services - the EU is discussing a new directive against greenwashing (DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (Green Claims Directive)). The aim of the Directive is to ensure that companies make honest and accurate environmental claims.

But how does this affect Swiss companies and what requirements do they have to meet?

Main requirements of the EU directive against greenwashing:

  1. Clarity and transparency: Companies must provide clear and understandable information about the environmental impact of their products, services or the company itself. This information must be easily accessible and must not be misleading.
  2. Comparability: The directive attaches importance to the comparability of companies' environmental claims. To this end, common standards for the assessment of environmental impacts are defined to enable a fair comparison between products from different companies. Eco-labels and eco-label systems must also meet certain requirements.
  3. Independent verification: To strengthen the credibility of environmental claims, companies must have their claims verified by independent bodies. This is to ensure that the information is objective and trustworthy.
  4. Prevention of misleading statements: The Directive expressly prohibits misleading environmental claims. Companies must not give the impression that their products or services are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

Scope of the EU Directive:

The Directive applies not only to companies based in the EU (with the exception of micro-enterprises (<10 employees and <EUR 2 million annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet), but also to non-EU companies that offer their products or services on the EU market.

Non-EU companies must ensure that their advertising and information materials aimed at EU consumers meet the requirements of the Directive. This means that they may have to adapt their marketing strategies to meet EU standards.

Planned entry into force:

The draft directive is currently in the EU legislative process (so-called trilogue) and is expected to be adopted in 2024. It is currently expected to come into force in 2026. Companies, both inside and outside the EU, will then have a transitional period to adapt their practices and meet the necessary requirements.

Non-EU companies are therefore well advised to follow the developments closely and take measures in good time to comply with the new standards and avoid any legal consequences.

In Switzerland, greenwashing in B2C business can currently only be covered by applying the Federal Act against Unfair Competition. In summer 2022, a proposal to introduce an explicit ban on greenwashing failed in Switzerland. The National Council was of the opinion that there was no acute need for action and that such a ban was "not very practical, as clarifying the question of whether a specific product could be advertised as climate-neutral or environmentally friendly would involve a great deal of administrative effort".

We at MME are happy to provide you with pragmatic support.