An interesting new legislation passed in Romania states that any unauthorized company using the EU Ecolabel will be subject to a 5,000 – 10,000 lei fine. This is the equivalent of $1,600-$3,200 CDN for each offense.
Romania is one of the first governments to actively enforce the use of verifiable ecolabels. The United States Department of Agriculture also levies fines of up to $11,000 USD for companies that mislabel products as ‘organic’. These initiatives are excellent first steps in enforcing a growing sector that is difficult to police, and may encourage more governments to do the same.
Currently the greatest threat to deceitful green-businesses and ecolabels is the loss of reputation that occurs when the public discovers they are not, in fact, eco-friendly at all. However, recent lawsuits against SC Johnson and a number of personal care product manufacturers reveal that consumers and environmental groups are using the courts in an effort to make businesses pay for their dishonesty with more than a loss of public standing.
As more companies are fined by governments or sued by consumers for misleading eco-marketing, a more comprehensive legal framework will be established through case law, and potentially through policy, to enforce such claims.
It will be interesting to see if more countries follow in the path of Romania via direct regulation, or rely on the outcomes of lawsuits to establish the future of ecolabelling law.