Dichiarazioni ambientali e green claim: comunicare correttamente la sostenibilità

How do you use ethical claims and environmental statements correctly so as not to risk sanctions? The Up2You Insight team has created a complete guide with the 7 key principles that every environmental statement must respect and 5 real cases of companies that have inappropriately used green claims. Click the button below and download it for free!
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Environmental statements, green claims and certifications: let's shed light

Per capire come comunicare in modo corretto il proprio impegno di sostenibilità, è importante definire innanzitutto che cos’è un green claim (o dichiarazione ambientale): si tratta di un’asserzione di sostenibilità che può comparire su un prodotto, sul suo imballaggio o su materiale promozionale; può essere espressa come testo, simbolo o immagine, e divulgata su supporti cartacei, digitali o elettronici, allo scopo di differenziare il prodotto per le sue performance in ambito ambientale.

Anche la narrazione di un prodotto, e quindi ciò che lascia intendere, è un claim etico: per esempio, se per raccontare un prodotto vengono utilizzati immagini di luoghi incontaminati, facendo intendere che è lì che viene realizzato, questa è a tutti gli effetti un’asserzione e non solo un elemento grafico. Se l'azienda ha sviluppato un proprio logo di sostenibilità, anche questa è una dichiarazione ambientale e come tutte dovrà rispondere a determinati requisiti.

Le asserzioni si differenziano in primis tra:

  • mandatory, such as energy labels on household appliances;
  • voluntary, where it is the company that decides whether to commit to the adherence of a set requirement.

Click the link below and download the free guide with the 7 key principles for properly communicating your commitment to environmental sustainability!

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Voluntary environmental statements: the 3 subgroups

Within the voluntary statements we find 3 other subgroups:

  • rating systems, entities that assess a company's sustainability performance based on their own criteria to which companies can submit through a survey; examples include ESG rating companies such as Ecovadis or organizations such as CDP;
Dichiarazioni ambientali: i rating systems
  • initiatives, which do not provide any certification but guarantee commitment to the goals set by the initiative for the company that subscribes to them; these include SBTi, UN Global Compact and Climate Neutral Now, among many others;
Iniziative ambientali e dichiarazioni ambientali
  • certifications, declarations made as a result of an established and recognized verification process. They can take the form of labels, to provide the consumer with clear, concise and transparent information about the environmental performance of a product, service or organisation. Certification schemes include B Corp, PAS 2060 and labels such as the EU Ecolabel and EPD.
Certificazioni ambientali

Environmental labels: what are they?

Currently, in Italy, sustainability claims are not legislatively regulated, unless they result in fraud. In fact, the ISO standard is the only one that establishes criteria for formal correctness, and therefore the only one that defines what can be considered greenwashing and what is not. For this reason, it is essential to be familiar with this standard and the 3 different types of voluntary environmental labels it regulates.

  • ISO 14024: allows consumer products and services to be distinguished in the marketplace by evaluating their environmental and performance characteristics. It is awarded by an independent body.
  • ‍ISO14025: Assesses the impacts associated with the life cycle assessment (LCA) of products so they can be compared within the market. It is awarded by an independent body.
  • ISO 14021: defines the scope of self-declarations with the purpose of informing about individual aspects that characterize a product or service.

How is an environmental statement used?

Self-declarations can be reported through advertisements, corporate communication channels, or even on labels and packaging, and they occur mainly in three ways:

  • Public assertions or statements;
  • symbols and images;
  • charts.

In all these cases, as we have seen, there is no obligation to submit to a specific scheme, but to follow principles and prohibitions regulated by ISO 14021. The intent of the standard is to "promote the demand for and supply of those services that can cause the least harm to the environment, thereby helping to stimulate a market-driven process of continuous environmental improvement."

To make this goal a reality, the standard defines 7 key principles that every environmental statement must adhere to. You can find them in our comprehensive guide, click the link below and download it for free!

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And that's not all: we wanted to give you practical, concrete cases to understand how NOT to communicate your sustainability goals! That's why within our free guide we have listed 5 real cases of large companies that have incorrectly worded their green claims, with their respective consequences.

The new European directive on environmental declarations

Despite the presence of dedicated standards for environmental claims, the risk of running into misleading business practices is still very present. For this reason, the EU has decided to establish requirements applicable to companies operating in the European market for the communication of environmental characteristics between businesses and consumers.

The decision to create a regulatory framework for environmental claims is part of a larger project that the EU has been undertaking for some years. In this regard, the first major step was the European Green Deal, the development strategy adopted in 2019 that commits to two goals:

  1. Reduce GHG emissions by at least 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030;
  2. Achieve European climate neutrality by 2050.

In order to achieve these goals, the Circular Economy Action Plan was adopted in 2020, a plan to accompany the European production system toward a paradigm of reduced pressure on natural resources and to counter the loss of biodiversity.

In addition, the proposal for a new directive on green claims was formulated, which commits to establishing common criteria against greenwashing, thus positioning itself as an additional tool in achieving the goals set. The proposal covers voluntary claims related to environmental impacts, aspects or performance that are communicated through self-declarations, certifications and labels related to products or organizations.

Theobjective of the directive is to ensure reliable, comparable and verifiable information for consumers to make informed decisions, reducing the risk of greenwashing.

Within our comprehensive guide, we have summarized the minimum requirements, prohibitions and obligations in the proposed new directive on the use of environmental statements to help you confidently and correctly communicate your environmental achievements and commitment.
You'll also find the 7 key principles that every environmental statement must adhere to, 5 real cases of companies that have inappropriately used green claims, and more.

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