Rules for sustainability claims

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Do you wish to use a sustainability claim to make known your product or service is sustainable? For instance, by stating on the packaging that you use renewable materials, or that the packaging is made of recycled materials? You must keep to a number of rules.

Greenwashing (misleading) is an offence

You do not have to use sustainability claims. If you choose to use such a claim, it must be truthful and reliable. If your claim is not honest or reliable, this is called greenwashing: misleading customers by making your products or services appear more sustainable than they are.

Misleading customers is a punishable offence, and you can be fined. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (Autoriteit Consument en Markt, ACM) supervises this. You can find the rules you need to follow in the ACM’s Guidelines for Sustainability Claims.

Sustainability claims must be truthful and clear

The most important rule is that such claims must be clear, truthful, and reliable. Among others, you must make sure to:

  • Use language that is easy to understand and make sure any information you supply is straightforward. You cannot provide information that is open to different interpretations.
  • Describe your claims factually and do not use terms like 'greenest' or 'cleanest' if you cannot prove it.
  • Describe exactly what is sustainable about your product or service.
  • Do not give out false information and do not describe your product as better than it is.
  • Only use words and phrases like 'organic' or 'climate-neutral' if the product complies with the legal conditions for these terms.

Check if your label complies with the mandatory attributes with Skal’s Dutch-language guide. Skal Biocontrole is the Dutch certifying and supervising body for the organic chain.

Prove your sustainability claims

You must be able to prove your sustainability claims by:

  • referring to independent research and standards
  • regularly checking if your proof still meets the current standards, knowledge, and technology

Comparing products

Do you make a comparison in your sustainability claim? For instance, 'this product uses 20% less energy'? You must make clear what you compare the product with.

You can compare your product or production process to:

  • a product or processions you have used previously
  • another company’s comparable product or production process
  • the generally accepted standard in you sector

Sustainability of your company

Do you claim your business is sustainable? You must make sure:

  • it is clear that your claim concerns the aims you want to reach, or the real environmental impact of your business
  • your claim is concrete, and you state specific initiatives and actions
  • your claim is not more sustainable than reality, for instance you highlight only a few activities

Do you claim sustainable goals? Make sure these are realistic and that your plan of action is quantifiable (its steps can be measured).

Quality marks and symbols

You can use symbols, logos or pictures to show your sustainability claim. But you are only allowed to do so if they support your claim and do not send a wrong signal.

You may also use a quality mark. You can for instance use Milieu Centraal’s Dutch-language quality mark guide to find out which quality mark you could use and which organisation is responsible for its implementation and monitoring its use. You may only use a quality mark if you meet all the conditions. You must inform your customers what these conditions are, and which authority monitors the use of the quality mark.

Do you want to use your own quality mark? You must let your customers know this quality mark is based on your own requirements.