Green Claims Directive: Re-establishing Trust in Sustainability Communication

May 16 2024

With the passing of the Green Claims Directive, the EU now picks up the gauntlet against corporate greenwashing. By laying down stringent rules for how companies may deploy claims about their sustainability, the intention is to eliminate the practices of greenwashing that for so long have been misleading consumers into making unsustainable choices.

While legislation may be a blunt instrument of change, the new directive carries the potential to level the playing field for all companies wishing to use sustainability to market themselves and their products on the European market. By creating accountability, it also helps combat the growing distrust for sustainability communication in making ‘green’ claims into a reliable instrument by which consumers may more easily navigate busy stores.

The impetus to substantiate claims is, however, nothing new in itself, but rather a reminder of what lies at the core of trust-building communication. Strategic communication should always be about highlighting – and backing-up – the value of something. Consequently, the Green Claims Directive should not be seen as a muzzle on sustainability communication, which ultimately risks intimidating honest companies into ‘greenhushing.’ Instead, it is about addressing the behaviour of less scrupulous actors, who by capitalising on the vagueness within the area have – perhaps inadvertently – made it difficult for conscientious companies to share and benefit from their sustainability efforts.

As we discussed on this week’s episode of the PRGN Presents podcast series, there are some key items to consider: 

  • The Green Claims Directive establishes rules for how companies may use claims about sustainability in their communication and marketing.
  • All environmental claims need to be specific and supported by independent, peer-reviewed, widely recognised, and verifiable scientific evidence.
  • The new rules seek to create fair competition and may ultimately raise trust for corporate sustainability communication.
  • Take inventory of all claims being made, either by the corporation itself, the leadership, or by individual employees.
  • Investigate the actual proof behind these claims and set up your own ‘claims court’ to judge whether they actually hold up to scrutiny. Be prepared to kill your darlings!
  • Develop a coherent, unitary, and substantiated message about sustainability and make sure it is widely understood within the entire organisation. Train spokespersons on delivering the message and ensure its consistent use across all platforms, e.g. website, corporate presentations, equity story, sustainability report and employer branding site.

To learn more about the Green Claims Directive, listen in on this week’s episode of PRGN Presents.

If you enjoyed this episode, please follow the PRGN Presents podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or any other podcast app. We publish new episodes every other Thursday. To have them delivered automatically and free of charge, just choose your preferred podcast player from this list, open the app, and click the button to “Follow” or “Subscribe” to the show:

To explore the subject further, you may be interested to check these links:

European Parliament legislative resolution, 12 March 2024 – ‘Substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (Green Claims Directive)’

European Parliament briefing, 5 March 2024 – ‘Green claims directive: Protecting consumers from greenwashing’

Martin Lucander
Partner, Senior Consultant and Management Team Member, Aspekta AB
Martin Lucander is a senior strategic advisor within sustainability communication and corporate communication. Martin manages and leads the development of both annual and sustainability reports, creates brand and messaging platforms, and advices on reporting frameworks for both listed and non-listed clients.

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