FORGET THE GREEN CLAIMS DIRECTIVE (PART 2 – DETAILED EXPLANATIONS)

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The Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (“Empowering Consumers Directive” / “EmpCo”) will apply as German law from September 2026.

The most drastic aspect of the EmpCo, which has hardly been on anyone’s radar so far, is that it will apply from the end of September 2026 to advertising claims relating to products that are already on the market. It therefore applies retroactively.

This means that from today at the latest, it must be taken into account for all communication decisions that even “touch” on sustainability, right down to the name of your company.

In principle, all company sizes will be affected, B2B and B2C, although it is not yet 100% certain whether the German implementation of the directive will explicitly include B2B companies. European countries handle this differently. Nevertheless, if you work for OEMs, which in turn have B2C lines of business, you are of course indirectly affected by the required standardisation of marketing propositions. Within your B2B target customers / OEMs, it will not be possible to handle multiple standards. Neither marketing, nor legal, nor sales would be able to withstand this “schizophrenia”, a green claim in the sense of Mercedes is a green claim in the sense of Mercedes, regardless of whether the supplier (you) supplies a B2B line (e.g. lorries) or a B2C line (cars). And the vast majority of suppliers will have to comply with this. So, similar to CSRD, there are indirect obligations to comply with the rules, even if they may not apply directly to us.

This directive brings significant changes to environmental advertising.

Affected areas include, among others:

  • Ingredient disclosures that supplement or exceed legal requirements
  • Packaging information, such as recyclability, biodegradability, or harmful substances
  • Sales documents
  • Texts for tenders in which you participate
  • Catalogs and brochures
  • Trade fair communication
  • Videos
  • Websites and shop descriptions
  • Vehicle wraps
  • Signage
  • Profile information of all online profiles of the company and employees, as far as they contain product information
  • Business stationery
  • PR texts, abstracts of lecture events
  • Job advertisements and employer brand communication

Why is the Green Claims Directive / Anti-Greenwashing Directive not yet relevant?

Unlike the directive discussed here, it has not yet been adopted. There are no fixed contents that we could prepare for today. After the European elections in June 2024, the new European Parliament will revisit it. Due to deadlines, it will be implemented into German law at the earliest in early 2027. Its main regulation, the prior approval of slogans and claims, is still a long way off.

Which companies are affected by the Empowerment Consumer Directive?

The directive is primarily aimed at B2C companies. Some EU countries have already announced that they will also apply it in the B2B sector. It is not yet foreseeable how Germany will decide. If your B2B customers resell products to end consumers, they often expect environmental claims from your supply chain to be maintained.

Small businesses are exempt from the Consumer Empowerment Directive if they:

  • Have fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover of less than 2 million euros
  • Have an additional grace year if they have an annual turnover of under 50 million euros and fewer than 250 employees

For each of the two thresholds, exceeding one of the criteria results in the loss of the exemption.

Important

Labels and information required by EU or national law are excluded from the directive. This must be checked on a case-by-case basis.

Ban on General Environmental Claims

General statements such as “green” or “climate neutral” must prove a recognized and relevant excellent environmental performance. This must meet the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 66/2010 or other national and regional environmental labels.

Sustainability Seals

These seals must be introduced by government bodies or based on an independent certification system. Users, holders, and auditors must be independent of each other.

CO2 Compensation

Terms like “climate neutral” can no longer be used if they are based on CO2 compensation. Products must actually be climate neutral.

Future Environmental Performance

Claims about future environmental performance must include clear, verifiable commitments and a detailed implementation plan.

Advertising with Legal Requirements

It is no longer allowed to advertise with legal minimum standards as a distinguishing feature. However, products that exceed legal requirements can still be advertised.

Circular Economy and Product Claims

Information about the durability, reparability, and recyclability of products must be transparent.

Relevant Environmental Claims

Environmental claims may no longer refer to the entire product or company if they only concern a partial aspect.

Additional Legal Details

The Consumer Empowerment Directive provides for changes to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), which will find its way into the German Act Against Unfair Competition (UWG). The UWG is the primary legal basis for judgments in the context of greenwashing in Germany.

Conclusion

The new directive is a step by the EU towards stricter regulations for environmental advertising. Companies should already consider the new requirements, especially if their products will still be on the market in 2026.

Support

Feel free to contact us anytime if you want to set up a project that gives you the security to conduct successful sustainability communication until 2026 and beyond. We support you with experts, manage projects (not legal advice), and are happy to work with your teams and service providers, whether they are lawyers, auditors, or agencies.

We enjoy working with various company departments and, upon request, also moderate processes, set up and conduct workshops, and support transformation, team building, and, of course, all marketing-related topics such as brand and sales strategy, content, design, or digital.

A conversation always adds value.

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