Anti-Greenwashing Guide 2024 for Packaging

2024 is your year. Stop feeling uneasy about promoting your sustainable packaging. This guide takes you through our experts' best anti-greenwashing practices to ensure your marketing is in line with all anti-greenwashing regulations.


Zazala Quist


October 17, 2023

Key insights

“Greenwashing. Yikes” - most likely popped up in your head when you read the title of this guide. 

For good reason

The risk of reputational damage, customer mistrust, legal penalties, potential loss of business has never been higher. With this increasing stakeholder pressure and regulatory action - relying on terms like ‘biobased’, eco-friendly, or ‘sustainable’ won’t do anymore.

In this guide, we show how to best ‘market’ sustainable packaging in 2024 - in line with greenwashing guidelines and regulations. 

But first - why focus on marketeers?

Marketing teams empower sustainable change

Marketers are crucial in driving effective sustainable change. You create the first touchpoints for consumers with products. You have the power to shape and influence consumer behavior and demand for truly sustainable products. 

If you state the correct sustainability information for products - you empower your target audience to:

  1. Make effective decisions in favor of impact reduction 
  2. Adopt effective sustainable consumer behavior
  3. Comply with sustainability legislation, e.g. the CSRD (promise, you won’t get happier customers after that)

But, doing sustainable marketing correctly is difficult. Let’s analyze a typical packaging greenwashing example first.

Example: Greenwashing in packaging

Example: You market your plastic packaging as "biodegradable" and claim that's why it's an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic. Using terms like "eco-packaging" and prominently displaying images of leaves and recycling symbols on the products.


  1. In reality, these plastics might not be disposed of as they should due to lacking waste infrastructures or misplacement by consumers.  Unproven end-of-life scenarios can’t bin environmenal claims. No proof, no claim.
  2. The comparison claim with traditional plastic is not supported by any scientific evidence, as is required by current anti-greenwashing laws. 
  3. The generic terms and private eco-labels make it seem all aspects of the product are sustainable but lack any scientific proof. 

Result: Your customers believe they are making an environmentally responsible choice. Even though they’re not - which hinders effective sustainable measures. 

Directives and laws tackling greenwashing

The regulatory pressure to combat greenwashing increases every year. To name a few: 

  1. European Union: Green Claims Directive (2024).
  2. United Kingdom: Competition and Markets Authority Rules (2022).
  3. France: The Climate and Resilience Law (2023).
  4. Netherlands: ACM - Authority for Consumer and Market (2022).

7 Best anti-greenwashing practices for packaging marketers

Best practice #1. Quit carbon-neutral claims

Don’t: Make carbon-neutral claims or any claims related to carbon offsetting on a company, process, or product level. The EU will ban these claims by 2026 with their new Green Claims Directive. As they often are an excuse to not make actual impact-reduction efforts.

Claim example: ‘This product is produced carbon-neutral’. ‘This product is carbon neutral’. 

Do: Use proven impact reduction or carbon footprint data on your product to enable customers to make effective sustainable purchasing decisions grounded in data. 

Correct Example:

(1) Communicate your packaging’s carbon footprint

(2) Below, state carbon offsetting was used to offset this carbon footprint

(3) Link to your company’s sustainability strategy and impact reduction KPIs (+how carbon offsetting is used)

Best practice #2. Quit private eco-labels

Don’t: Use private labels or make your own ‘eco-ladder’ or rating. Eco labels - specifically private labels - are scrutinized due to their lack of credibility, standardization, and verifiability. The EU will ban the use of most private labels by 2026. The Dutch ACM already does.

Example self-made 'eco logo':

Do: Always use independent labels, such as the EU’s eco-label, other third-party certification labels, or Pickler’s impact widgets. Ensure it's clear what aspect of the packaging (whole lifecycle vs a material) the label refers to. Find more tips on correct scoping for claims in best practise #7.

“The use of private labels is discouraged because labels create high expectations among consumers, which often cannot be met. That is because consumers often think that labels are issued by the government or that they are checked by independent third parties. In reality, however, most private labels lack a system of independent checks.” 

- Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets, 2023.

Best practice #3. Provide independent, scientific proof

Don’t: Make environmental claims about a packaging’s carbon footprint, or comparison to another product - without any scientific proof. All regulations state: environmental claims are banned if they lack scientific evidence. No proof, no claim.   

Do: Create independent (third-party), scientific evidence and facts for the environmental benefits of your packaging that are up to date with the latest material/process changes and peer-reviewed LCAs. That's calculated with a third party (like Pickler).

  1. Product claims: Generate environmental footprint data for your products via Life Cycle Assessment methods and software (like Pickler for packaging). 
  2. Material property claims: Find and link to solid proof, e.g. recycling checks from KIDV, or third-party certificates for % recycled materials, etc.

Example: “This packaging has an X% reduced carbon footprint compared to its previous version” should be supported with a link to the product’s environmental footprint calculated over its entire life cycle compared to the same scope for its previous version.

Best practice #4. Don’t make generic environmental claims. 

Don’t: Generally label your packaging as ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’, etc. The EU will ban these claims by 2026, and the Dutch ACM already prohibits it now. 

Do: Make your claims as specific as possible, more like a statement than a ‘claim’. Present all available evidence and scientific information and let your customers make the decisions themselves. 

Example: State; ‘this is the carbon footprint of this product’. Like Pickler users MAX cases do below.  

Extra tip: Avoid generic ‘recyclable’ or ‘biodegradable’ claims

If you can’t prove it, you can’t claim it. Most sellers cannot prove how consumers actually dispose of the packaging. Hence, ‘recyclable’ or ‘biodegradable’ can’t be used to make an environmental claim over an entire product via footprint results (see best practice #5). They should simply be stated as product qualities, provided with context on how to best dispose of the product. E.g. ‘For optimal recycling, remove plastic lid’.

Q: What if I don’t have footprint data for the packaging I sell?

We got you. Pickler’s database has over 500 LCAs (verified footprints) of packaging materials, processes, and transport types - with new LCAs continuously added. Its algorithms help you generate credible scientific footprints for environmental claims with little data to start with. Read how we help marketers here.

Best practice #6. Commit to 100% transparency

Don’t: Say a product is sustainable without any environmental data to back it up. OR state you have data, but hide it for your stakeholders.  

Do: Ensure your audiences/stakeholders can always easily find the details (method, data, scope, percentages, conditions, etc.) of your scientific proof, material qualities, and sustainability reports. To verify, reproduce, or check them.

It’s a funnel, where your audience finds more sustainability information with every next step:

1. Start: environmental claim

2. *click*, footprint results

3. *click* sustainability page

4. *click* sustainability report.

Everything’s there, to satisfy every interest level.

Example: If you state your product’s carbon footprint, always link to the full report. E.g. by using Pickler’s impact widgets (see below). 

“The holy trinity to any credible environmental claim is science, transparency, and clarity. The EU and Dutch ACM want scientific footprint results calculated by anLife Cycle Assessment method that focuses on transparency and verifiability. Your footprint results should be open for review by any stakeholder, and adhere to anti-greenwashing rules.”

  • Koen de Beer, Co-founder of Pickler.

Best practice #7. Use correct scoping in claims

“My bike’s seat is made of responsible leather, so the bike is sustainable”. This doesn’t make sense. Just because your seat is ‘responsible’, doesn’t make the whole bike a better choice for the environment. Yet, this happens a lot in packaging. 

For example: “This packaging is an Eco-friendly choice: it's FSC certified”. 

Or: “This packaging is sustainable because this company has solar panels on the roof of every office”. 

Don’t: Promote an entire product as sustainable due to a certain ‘sustainable’ or certified sub-material, process, or mix it with company effort. The scoping simply isn’t correct. All aspects of a product's lifecycle can influence its environmental impact.

Do: Categorize your proof per stage in the life cycle for stakeholders e.g. in product descriptions. Only make an environmental claim over an entire product, if the scientific proof covers the product’s whole life cycle. 

  • Example 1: If your product was produced with green energy, state this in your product description under ‘production’ with a link to the proof it actually is. If you have solar panels on your roof, mention this in your sustainability report under scope 1 emissions reduction efforts.  

  • Example 2: Don’t solely use an eco-label referring to product materials - e.g. FSC certified - to make a claim over the environmental benefits of the entire product. Put the FSC-certified logo under a sub-header of materials.

Your marketing needs transparent, scientific data.

Environmental claims start with environmental data. Pickler is easy footprint software for packaging resellers. We exist to help marketers like you eliminate greenwashing from your communications by easily calculating and sharing science-based footprint results. Completely in line with anti-greenwashing regulations. It’s all you need really.

The best part, you don’t need a sustainability degree. 

Start the 14-day free trial today or book a demo with our sales team. 

Zazala Quist

Head of growth

Hi, I'm Zazala - Head of Growth at Pickler. I've worked in impact measurements for many years and experienced first hand how difficult it can be for businesses to start. My goal: share my practical knowledge to make environmental sustainability accessible and understandable to business. Have questions about this topic or just want to chat? Reach out to me via email or LinkedIn!