On 12 June 2023, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (Autoriteit Financiële Markten, the AFM) published a Guideline on Sustainability Claims (the Guideline) for public consultation. The purpose of this Guideline is to provide market participants with the necessary tools to make accurate, clear and non-misleading sustainability claims.
The AFM recognises the significant role of the financial sector in promoting a sustainable economy. Market participants often engage in marketing communications that include sustainability ambitions and other sustainability claims. These sustainability claims encompass all expressions related to sustainability used to describe and promote their entities, as well as their products and services.
The decision-making process of consumers and participants increasingly takes into account sustainability claims made by market participants, whether concerning their products or their own sustainability efforts. In order for consumers to make informed choices, it is crucial that they have confidence and trust in the honesty and accuracy of sustainability claims.
The Guideline provides for three principles on how to make a fair sustainability claim:
- Sustainability claims must be accurate, representative and up-to-date.
- The information must correspond to reality and be non-contradictory, both within a document as well as between different information carriers.
- Communication on the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) should also be correct. SFDR classifications should not be used as a means of promotion and should not be presented as being assigned by a third party.
- Not only positive sustainability aspects should be presented, negative aspects should also be addressed to portray an accurate picture.
- Audio-visual sustainability claims should be representative, such as pictures of wind turbines.
- Sustainability claims should not be based on outdated information.
- Sustainability claims must be specific and substantiated.
- Vague descriptions or sustainability claims may give a misleading picture to readers.
- Information should be provided with context.
- Claims should be supported by facts based on sound evidence.
- Claims that cannot be substantiated, should not be made.
- When reference is made to third-party assessments or certifications, this assessment or certification should be explained.
- Sustainability claims must be understandable, appropriate and easy to find.
- The sustainability claim may not be complex or include difficult terms, unless these terms are clearly explained.
- Information carriers should be well structured to ensure that readers can easily find information relating to the sustainability claim.
- Information on a sustainability claim should be cohesive. Where reference is made to other information, this information should be easy to find for the reader.
The AFM now invites market parties to respond to the Guideline. The deadline for responding is 24 July 2023. The Guideline is available here.