Growing attention to greenwashing
The Danish document is not an isolated case. As the number of court rulings on greenwashing increases, the various national enforcement authorities are publishing ‘guidelines’ to support companies in communicating sustainability. This is the case, for example, with the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) “making environmental claims on goods and services for UK markets” published in November 2021. As early as January 2021, the European Commission released the results of an analysis of websites regarding “sustainability” claims on products and services, showing that more than half of them were illegal. Of these misleading green claims, 37% were based on vague and general statements, and the remaining 59% lacked objective information and supporting data.
Preventing greenwashing with life cycle analysis
The Danish document is destined to be a school affair as it states in a general way a principle that has so far only been used by various national enforcement authorities as a specific suggestion or prescription for companies sued for greenwashing or misleading advertising.
Since it is not possible to define any product or service generically as ‘sustainable’, a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) must be carried out in order to make green claims without running the risk of greenwashing.
Life-Cycle Assessment is an objective method of assessing and quantifying the energy and environmental loads and potential impacts associated with a product, a service, a process or, more generally, an activity throughout its entire life cycle, i.e. from the acquisition of raw materials to its eventual disposal or recovery (from cradle to grave or, even better in a circular perspective, from cradle to cradle). With an LCA behind it, the 59% of sustainability claims incriminated in the Commission’s analysis mentioned above would not have run the risk of greenwashing.
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