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Greenwashing: Risks of Misleading Claims

Greenwashing: Risks of Misleading Claims

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Greenwashing is an umbrella term for misleading environmental claims. A claim is any promotional communication that can be communicated in advertisements, marketing materials, product manuals, prospectuses for investors, recruitments ads, annual reports, on packaging or brands themselves.

A claim is misleading if it is inaccurate or omits or conceals information or creates the impression that activities or products are less harmful or more beneficial to the environment than they are.

Even today, it is possible to find a legal basis in the field of consumer protection and regulations governing advertising that prohibits misleading claims related to the environment. At the same time, two specific directives are being prepared at the EU level: the directive on claims related to the environment and the directive on strengthening the position of consumers in the framework of the green transformation, an agreement already having been reached on the final wording of the latter directive.

Businesses are exposed to many risks when using misleading claims: damage to reputation, criticism on social media, campaigns by non-governmental organisations, product boycotts. However, they can also lead to advertising bans, fines and other penalties, as well as claims for damages. Before publishing a claim, it is therefore advisable to check its veracity, completeness, scientific basis, credibility of the certification and its comparability ("green alternative"), and avoid general claims such as "green", "sustainable" or "ethical", as they are difficult to prove.

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