(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is cracking down on greenwashing everywhere from the supermarket to the skies.   

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed rules to tackle misleading environmental claims on everyday goods ranging from a carton of milk to T-shirts and airline travel. Companies will need to back up with science any labeling such as “climate neutral” or “biodegradable.” 

“Over the past five years we’ve seen an increase in greenwashing,” EU Environment Minister Virginijus Sinkevicius said in an interview before the proposal. “We want to make sure those companies who claim to be green really are. Consumers don’t want to be misled.”

It’s the latest example of the EU’s efforts to be a leader on sustainability as the world grapples with climate change. The bloc is seeking to be net-zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and it has already stepped up policing of the financial sector’s environmental claims.

Read More: Four Examples of Greenwashing, According to the EU

The proposed rules — which will need the approval of the European Parliament and the bloc’s 27 member states — mark a major step into oversight over consumer products. Companies could face financial penalties or even have their products taken off the market if they’re found in violation of the rules, according to Sinkevicius.

A 2020 survey found that more than half of the product environmental claims studied contained “vague, misleading or unfounded information,” according to the proposal.

‘Missed Opportunity’

The worst offender was clothing, with claims of T-shirts made from recycled bottles, the environment minister said. Companies also sometimes provide dubious information on carbon offsetting, he added. 

“If a flight company states that it’s a climate-neutral flight, they will have to give the full information that it is offset,” Sinkevicius said. “We want to avoid double-counting.”

Carbon Market Watch said the proposal fell short by failing to ban terms like “carbon neutrality” and by making allowances for the use of carbon offsets.

“This proposal is a huge missed opportunity to send a powerful message to corporations that the EU is taking corporate climate responsibility seriously,” said Lindsay Otis, policy expert on global carbon markets at the watchdog group. 

(Updates with watchdog group’s comment in last two paragraphs.)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.