With the forthcoming EU Green Deal, the Green New Deal in the United States along with the efforts of the world’s leading economies to move quickly towards net zero, our future sustainability is set to dominate global policymaking for years to come.
On Friday 28 May, TIC Council hosted a webinar to explore the role of the independent TIC sector in substantiating green claims in the age of greenwashing. This high-level panel discussion brought together speakers from some of the leading global institutions seeking to deliver a more sustainable future, with a focus on the practical measures being explored and undertaken to ensure manufacturers uphold their promises to consumers.
This is particularly pertinent given the publication of recent studies which have uncovered the extent of greenwashing. For example, the European Commission’s recent screening exercise found that green claims were “exaggerated, false or deceptive” and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practice under EU rules in 42% of cases. The evidence suggests that greenwashing is most definitely on the rise.
The session opened with a contribution from Hanane Taidi, Director-General of TIC Council, who moderated the discussion. Ms. Taidi explained that now, more than ever, we need reliable and trusted information so that consumers have the information to call out false or misleading green claims. The onus is on policymakers, she argued, to ensure that the damaging impact of greenwashing is embedded in an authentic dialogue which consumers around the world can buy into.
Following this contextual introduction, the presentations began with Christian Holzleitner, Head of Unit for Land Use and Finance for Innovation at the Directorate-General for Climate Action of the European Commission. Mr. Holzleitner outlined his DG’s current work on developing a framework for the certification of carbon removals, which is imperative given the need to ensure that claims around carbon removals are of environmental integrity. He set out a timetable for the development of a new framework, with the Commission set to bring forward proposals for an EU standard on carbon removal certification in 2022 or 2023.
The Commission recognises the need to create credible incentives for carbon removals, supporting businesses to further develop and execute approaches that are genuinely carbon neutral. The key to the long-term success of carbon removals is the implementation of robust and transparent carbon accounting, with independent TIC companies playing a crucial role in verifying these claims. Mr. Holzleitner acknowledged that information regarding certification is of incredibly high value if we are to successfully shift to a climate-neutral economy.
Next up was Anthony Cox, Deputy Director of the Environment Directorate at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Mr. Cox was unequivocal that greenwashing is of great concern to his senior colleagues, claiming that “the very credibility of the Paris Agreement is at stake” if the issue is not addressed. Despite figures suggesting that approximately $336bn has been allocated to green measures as part of the global post-pandemic recovery. This unfortunately is roughly equivalent to the amount allocated to mixed or anti-green measures at the same time. As such, Mr. Cox warned that more needs to be done to avoid policymakers “giving with one hand and taking away with the other”, concluding that “we are not yet on the path to the rapid transition that is required”.
Additionally, Mr Cox also stressed that further efforts should be made to ensure the global consistency of sustainability reporting, especially through the development of tools to support regulatory authorities and private investors in verifying green claims. Indeed, the investor community has a significant role to play, with the rise of ESG investing being another tool in the armoury of those looking to eradicate greenwashing altogether.
Finally, the President of the TIC Council, Dr. Michael Fübi, gave a short presentation offerring support to the European Commission as it continues to develop a carbon reduction framework, citing the technical and on-the-ground expertise of its members which could be used to inform the approach. Dr. Fübi highlighted the role of the TIC sector in preventing greenwashing and cited a handful of findings from TIC Council’s newly launched report on The Value of TIC, which demonstrates, through pertinent case studies, the value that the conformity assessment sector brings to society.
Collectively, the panel agreed on the importance of ensuring that industry, policymakers and other key stakeholders are united in their efforts to combat false or misleading green claims. Therefore, the development towards a pathway for verifying products and investment reports as part of a commonly understood global framework will be critical to the success or failure of combatting greenwashing over the coming decade. This will ultimately allow us all to understand concretely what lies behind labels.
To watch the recorded version of the webinar in full, click here.
The presentation that accompanied the webinar is available to view here.
For a list of upcoming TIC Council webinars, including a session on the Internet of Things scheduled for June 2021, list of webinars.
To read the Value of TIC report, click here.
About TIC Council
TIC Council is a global association representing over 90 international independent third-party testing, inspection, certification, and verification organizations. The industry represents an estimated one million employees across the world with annual sales of approximately USD 200 billion.