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The banning of greenwashing

Sustainability of products is no longer a ‘nice to do’

EU laws are introducing durability obligations and rights of repair, promoting recyclability and ecolabelling; and banning early obsolescence and “greenwashing” .

EU laws are introducing durability obligations and rights of repair, promoting recyclability and ecolabelling; and banning early obsolescence and “greenwashing” .

 

The decarbonisation of the Irish economy and the move to a net zero emissions situation will require dramatic change from a societal, political and economic perspective with new technology, products and infrastructure rolled out.

For large scale infrastructure to be successful legal advice is required from the early stage of development all the way through to operation – covering planning, environmental, real estate, regulatory advice, construction law and corporate governance, says Eoin Cassidy, energy sector lead partner at Mayson, Hayes and Curran.

“The legal and regulatory framework that applies to large infrastructure is complex and presents objectors or other interested parties with plenty of opportunities for potential challenge to delay or prevent its rollout. A failure to take advice from experienced practitioners can result in delay, or in the worst case, the failure of the relevant project.

“Separately, much of the larger scale infrastructure will be underpinned by new revenue models (or markets) and third party funding or grant arrangements, all of which will require robust legal structures,” he says.

Companies developing and marketing individual green products for sale to consumers and businesses will need to navigate a host of consumer law developments that are happening at EU level.

For example, the EU Commission adopted its first milestone in November 2020 on a proposal for a regulation to modernise EU batteries legislation as part of the Circular Economy Action Plan and the EU Commission is also planning a new regulation or directive in 2021 to empower consumers for “the green transition”. This is intended to give them better protection against practices such as greenwashing and early obsolescence, and a requirement for green claims to be substantiated based on the environmental footprint methods.” he says.

The EU Commission has also outlined several innovative proposals to encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable consumption behaviours. These include the sharing economy, new business models of goods-as-a-service, repairs provided through community and social economy organisation actions – for example, repair cafés and encouraging second-hand markets.

“Sustainability and countering obsolescence are also the drivers for the review of the Ecodesign Directives, extending to new categories of product and delivering on circularity. The Single-Use Plastics Directive also bans certain single-use plastic products as well as imposing measures to reduce consumption, extend producer responsibility and design requirements for beverage containers,” he adds.

The EU Farm to Fork initiative has sustainable diet habits, including eating less meat, as a policy objective, and navigating regulations around novel meat-substitutes, supplements and plant-based products may become increasingly relevant. This may lead to an increase in demand for support on how to effectively commercialise innovative new food and feed products derived from sources like seaweed and insects, given the complex and sophisticated EU food regulatory environment, Cassidy says.

The sustainability of products is no longer a “nice to do”. EU laws are introducing durability obligations and rights of repair, promoting recyclability and ecolabelling; and banning early obsolescence and “greenwashing”. This will also present challenges for companies selling products into the EU, he adds.