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Green claims

The Consumer Policy Programme 1996-1998 of the European Commission included the encouragement of sustainable consumption among its priority policy objectives. As part of action to promote such an objective, the Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection launched several initiatives to examine how to ensure the reliability of the environmental information and claims ("Green claims") which are often used by manufactures and suppliers to promote their products or services.

A questionnaire on environmental product claims, developed by the Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection, was sent to the Member States in1998, in order to collect information about relevant existing instruments and measures at national level to control green claims.

A study was commissioned to an independent consultant in order to examine the practice on green claims and effectiveness of the instruments available to the Member States to control misleading green claims. An inventory of policy options in this area was also provided as part of the study.

The results of the study were presented and discussed in experts' meetings organised in 1999.

This study confirmed the proliferation of environmental claims made in product labels, on packaging, in advertising, etc., causing great confusion among t he consumers. As a consequence of their proliferation, green claims, including those subject to independent verification, were loosing credibility.
An expert group on green claims composed of representatives of the competent administrations of the Member States and the main stakeholders concerned was set up to:

  • assist the Commission in identifying needs and possibilities for community action in the area;
  • prepare appropriate initiatives and proposals.

As a result of the discussions and consultations on the subject, the General Directorate Health and Consumer Protection has finally produced informal guidelines for making and assessing environmental claims in order to support the application of the international standard ISO 14021 on self declared environmental claims.

Any comments on these informal guidelines will be welcome.
Comment may be sent to Mr Daskaleros Panagiotis at the following e-mail address:

ISO 14021

The standard ISO 14021 specifies the requirements for self-declared environmental claims, including symbols, regarding products. It further describes selected terms commonly used in environmental claims and gives qualifications for their use. This standard also describes a general evaluation and verification methodology for self-declared environmental claims and specific evaluation and verification methods for the selected claims or labelling in this standard.
ISO 14021 does not preclude, or in any way change, legally required environmental information, claims or labelling, or any other applicable legal requirement.
Further information concerning ISO 14021 are provided in the web site of the International Standardisation Organisation


These informal guidelines were prepared by ECA, Entidad Colaboradora de la Administración. S.A., under the contract n° B5-1000/99/00051.

The purpose of this consultant work was to assist the European Commission in identifying the specific issues on which guidance for making assessing green claims in the light of ISO 14021 is useful, and in preparing and developing informal guidelines on the subject.

The views expressed in this document have not been adopted or in any way formally approved by the Commission and should not be regarded as a statement of the Commission's or the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General's views. They do not replace the ISO standard and are only intended for supporting those wishing to apply good practice in making environmental claims.

The European Commission does not guarantee the accuracy of data or information included in these guidelines, nor does it accept responsibility for any use made thereof.

Guidelines for Making and Assessing Environmental Claims ES DA DE EL FR IT NL PT FI SV (+/-370KB)

Testing the quality of European Drinking Water

In 1999 the then Consumer Protection Directorate General (DG XXIV) commissioned a pilot study to assess the quality of drinking water in selected cities in eight member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain). The study was part of a number of actions carried out in the context of sustainable consumption.

After an open call procedure, the study was awarded and carried out by two institutes, the Fresenius Institute (FI) in Germany and the Austrian Energy Agency (AEA).

Both tap water and bottled water were sampled and analysed for a number of physical, chemical and microbiological parameters.

The study was completed in 2000. The reports ( report 1 - 9,5 Mb Zip-file and report 2 - 180 Mb Zip-file) of the two institutes were submitted for review to the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity, and the Environment (SCTEE). An Executive summary in English is also available.
In its Opinion of 12 June 2003, the SCTEE concluded that considering its scope this was a well-designed and well-executed study. On the other hand, the Committee noted that the study results do not allow the drawing of general conclusions on the quality and safety of drinking water in Europe. Instead the study results can serve as the base line for the design of future comprehensive studies. To this end the SCTEE made a number of recommendations regarding the study design, sampling, and analysis parameters that will need to be included in such studies.

Following its completion and the SCTEE evaluation of the results, the study file has been transferred to the Environment Directorate General, which is the Commission service responsible for the Water Framework Directive and the Drinking water Directive.



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