Have you ever looked at a product that claims to be carbon neutral or environmentally friendly and wondered what the heck that means, specifically? It can be a dodgy marketing practice that induces consumers into buying something that may not be anything of the sort.
It's called greenwashing. The EU parliament has reached a provisional agreement to weed out BS. Companies making such claims will have to provide proof of environmental performance relevant to such claims.
The new laws aim to block dubious and generic environmental claims, such as being sustainable, environmentally friendly, biodegradable or climate neutral without proof. Secondly, the EU wants companies to provide proof that a product or service really is a part of an emissions offsetting scheme, and provide proof of claims to be carbon neutral, or have a reduced or even positive impact on the environment.
Beyond the greenwashing issue, the agreement seeks to improve communication about goods with features that limit durability. The website points out ink cartridges as an example, where users are often prompted to replace them earlier than is necessary.
There are also provisions to address software updates, which can be presented as necessary, even if they only add functionality.
The agreement is provisional for now. It needs to be ratified by the EU Parliament and council, with a vote set to take place in November. If or when that happens, member states will have 24 months to sign the new rules into law.
I think this is a good thing. I have personally wondered exactly how a given product can claim to be environmentally friendly with no evidence to back it up. As people become more aware of climate change, of course they will seek options that limit environmental impact where possible. Slapping a green sticker on a product will no longer be sufficient.
Will other governing bodies step up? It's hard to say when there's money to be made. Being environmentally friendly is a great marketing tactic, but in this day and age, such claims really do need to be backed up.