New Zealand exporters are watching closely as Europe works on tightening up the green credential claims made by manufacturers.
The Meat Industry Association’s chief executive, Sirma Karapeeva, said the European Union’s so-called Green Directive appears to be designed to offer consumer protection rather than introduce a trade requirement.
“As far as we can tell, this legislative proposal is part of a package of other measures to give strength to the circular economy and the EU’s Green Deal,” she said.
“It applies to all products, not just food and beverage, that are being sold in the EU that make a green claim regardless of that product’s origin.”
A claim that something is carbon neutral will have to be backed with evidence to prove that is the case, she said.
The EU says the move will stop companies from making misleading claims about the environmental merits of their products and services.
A proliferation of labels and claims in Europe is confusing consumers and some are not reliable, which is leading to low consumer trust and accusations of greenwashing.
Tightening the rules will boost the competitiveness of businesses striving to increase the environmental sustainability of their products and activities.
Survey data released by the EU reveals 53% of green claims give vague, misleading or unfounded information, 40% have no supporting evidence and half of all green labels offer weak or non-existent verification.
There are 230 sustainability labels and 100 green energy labels in the EU, and the proposal aims to make green claims reliable, comparable and verifiable while also creating a circular, green European economy.
It will obligate companies to prove their environmental claims, which will require verification by an independent and accredited verifier to ensure they are solid, transparent and reliable.
Karapeeva said the proposed rules will affect but not preclude traders selling product in the EU.
“Rules on labelling should be based on credible science and not used as a means of protectionism,” she said.
“This is why policies such as the one on deforestation and trade is so problematic. It is so broad in its target that in effect it becomes a trade barrier.”
Karapeeva said the MIA will be watching closely how these regulations are implemented to ensure they are not overly onerous.
“At this stage, it appears the proposal will only allow environmental claims if they are substantiated and verified before they are used commercially.”
The European Parliament is still to pass enabling legislation, and implementation regulations are not yet developed.
The European Parliament is expected to consider the legislation in late November. If it passes, member states will have 24 months to comply.