The government plays an essential role in the fight against greenwashing. Only at this level can systemic change be enforced on a large scale. The government can establish the framework for brands to communicate honestly and impose consequences on companies that do not comply with it. Fortunately, there have been many developments.
In 2023, the European Commission introduced the Directive on Green Claims: a law that obliges companies to substantiate green claims. This means that European Union countries must establish national regulations for greenwashing. Companies must report their claims to local authorities, provide scientific evidence, and make this information accessible to consumers. This law aims to make it impossible to use vague claims like 'sustainable,' 'natural,' and 'environmentally friendly.' Countries can determine the consequences they associate with greenwashing themselves. The law is still under consideration, but the European Parliament reacted very positively.
In the Netherlands, the Autoriteit Consument en Markt (ACM) oversees greenwashing. The ACM can take action against misleading sustainability claims. This is happening more and more frequently. In 2021, for instance, H&M was reprimanded by the ACM for greenwashing in its Conscious line, using vague terms (like 'conscious') and unsubstantiated claims. H&M discontinued the Conscious line (globally!) and donated €500,000 to independent organizations working towards a better clothing industry. A similar decision was made regarding Decathlon's 'ecodesign' claims, making international headlines.