German certifier withdraws ‘climate neutral’ label in face of growing criticism
Clean Energy Wire
Following growing criticism and a wave of court cases against product labels promising climate neutrality, German certifier ClimatePartner is withdrawing its ‘carbon neutral’ label. The label will be phased out after a transitional period given that “the regulatory framework is changing, and existing sustainability standards are being questioned,” the Munich-based company stated in a press release. ClimatePartner said this will be replaced with the new climate action label “ClimatePartner certified,” which “takes into account the increased demands for comprehensive climate action and in particular the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” According to ClimatePartner, the new label sets higher requirements for companies, including mandatory emissions reduction targets, and is also more transparent. Companies wishing to use it on a product must set organisational reduction targets, prove that they have already implemented reduction measures, and “contribute to global climate action by financing climate projects.” ClimatePartner head Moritz Lehmkuhl said in an interview last week that the label “climate neutral” the company uses in Germany is “not future-proof.”
The number of retail products labelled as ‘climate neutral,’ ‘CO2 neutral,’ or ‘carbon neutral’ has risen rapidly, but these claims remain unregulated. In common use, they merely promise that companies calculate the CO2 emissions of the respective product over its life cycle and offset this carbon by purchasing offsets from schemes around the world. This is why some NGOs have accused the labels of deceiving consumers, and called for a ban. Surveys have confirmed this accusation, having revealed that the vast majority of people don’t have a clear idea what these claims mean. German health and beauty products retailer Rossmann said earlier this year it will remove ‘climate neutral’ labels from its own-branded products following a joint investigation by newspapers The Guardian and Die Zeit, which found many of these claims were unsubstantiated and based on “questionable” CO2 removal certificates. In a pending series of court cases against these “greenwashing” labels, the first judgements have already barred companies from using them in advertising.