IS THE GRASS GREENER ON THE AFD SIDE?
The shift towards AFD aims to offer sustainable and healthy food. However, any sustainability claims should be accurate, transparent and not misleading.(14) The true sustainability and environmental impact of this new technology and sector should be considered and not assumed to be ideal. Conventional dairy production has a significant impact on the environment, with a carbon footprint that is comparable to that of the aviation and shipping industries combined.(15) It has been estimated that AFD products have significantly less environmental impact;(15) however, more data is required, particularly as production scales up.
Currently, there is no legal definition of ‘sustainable’ within EU or GB legislation. However, a new EU Green Claims Directive was proposed in March 2023(16) to address greenwashing concerns and ensure the accuracy of environmental claims. For example, the use of common slogans such as ‘net zero’, ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘eco-friendly’ would be prohibited unless they were sufficiently substantiated and verified. Once the directive comes into force, EU member states will have 18 months to transpose it into national legislation. The directive will ensure that any sustainability claims are evidence-based and substantiated using life cycle assessments, which are externally verified. The emerging sector of animal-free alternatives will be subject to the same obligations as the majority* of other businesses where sustainability claims are being made. That is, they must evaluate their sustainability data and environmental impact to comply with the EU regulation when it comes into force.
GB hasn’t approached the regulation of green claims in the same way. The Green Claims Code was published in 2021, which isn’t a regulation but offers guidance to businesses making sustainability claims within the UK.(14) The new EU directive echoes many points in the UK Green Claims Code. Rather than adopting an explicit green claims regulation, in the UK, consumer protection law covers claims and regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), can take action if a claim is misleading.(17)
*Only companies with less than 10 employees or with an annual turnover of €2 million would be exempt.