Photo of Bart Van Vooren

Bart Van Vooren

Bart Van Vooren has a broad life sciences practice supporting innovative pharmaceutical, food, medtech and biotech companies on EU regulatory, commercial and strategic policy assignments. He is widely recognized for his expertise on general EU law and procedure, as well as his extensive litigation experience before the EU Court of Justice in dozens of cases.

Over the past seven years, Mr. Van Vooren has developed a niche practice on compliance with the Biodiversity Convention and the Nagoya Protocol, a set of rules to combat bio-piracy worldwide. He has accumulated unique, practical experience in dozens of jurisdictions around the world, and has handled everything from benefit-sharing negotiations, over compliance programs, to inspections by authorities.

Finally, Mr. Van Vooren has an active pro bono practice assisting NGOs defending the human rights of persons with a disability through strategic litigation.

On January 17, 2024, the European Parliament formally endorsed its provisional agreement with the Council on the Directive Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition through Better Protection against Unfair Practices and Better Information (“Greenwashing Directive”).  The Council is now expected to endorse the provisional agreement after which the Directive will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force.

The Greenwashing Directive aims to contribute to the EU’s green transition by empowering consumers to make informed purchases using reliable sustainability information about products and traders.  To do so, the Directive amends Directive 2005/29 on Unfair Business-to-Consumer Practices (“Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”) by introducing specific rules on sustainability and environmental claims.  The Greenwashing Directive is intended to work in tandem with the proposed Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims (the “Proposed Green Claims Directive”), which we reported on here

Companies should keep a close eye on the transposition of this Directive, as it will have a significant impact on how they communicate about their sustainability, environmental, and social or ethical efforts.  Covington can help companies with navigating these regulatory requirements while meeting their business objectives.Continue Reading EU Adopts New Rules on Greenwashing and Social Impact Claims

In the early hours of December 14, 2023, the Council of the EU (“Council”) and the European Parliament (“Parliament”) reached a provisional political agreement on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (“CSDDD”). Described as a “historic breakthrough” by Lara Wolters, who has led this file for the Parliament, the CSDDD will require many companies in the EU and beyond to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence on their global operations and value chain, and oblige them to adopt a transition plan for climate change mitigation.

Given the CSDDD’s relevance for companies’ ongoing compliance planning on environmental and human rights matters, this blog aims to advise clients on the basic elements of the CSDDD agreement based on press releases from the Council, Parliament, and the European Commission (“Commission”), even if much uncertainty remains. Although a political agreement has been reached, the text of the agreement is not publicly available and a number of details of the legal text will need to be finalized in follow-up technical meetings. Covington will publish a more detailed alert on “how to prepare” for the CSDDD once the full text is available (likely in early 2024).Continue Reading Provisional Agreement on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD): Key Elements of the Deal

On 19 June 2023, after almost 20 years of negotiations, the United Nations (“UN”) member states adopted a landmark treaty to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine Biodiversity of areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (the “BBNJ” treaty).

One of the cornerstones of the BBNJ treaty is the creation of a new mechanism for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities with respect to “marine genetic resources” (“MGRs”) and “digital sequence information” (“DSI”) from MGRs.  This mechanism is groundbreaking because it will require companies to pay for the use of genetic resources beyond national jurisdiction for the first time.  Until now, under the existing Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) and its Nagoya Protocol, companies were required to make (non-)monetary contributions only for the utilization of genetic resources under national jurisdiction (e.g., from national territories, national seas and exclusive economic zones).  The BBNJ creates new “Access and Benefit-Sharing” (“ABS”) obligations on MGRs from maritime areas beyond national jurisdiction (i.e., the High Seas and the Area). 

Companies in sectors whose R&D depends on marine genetic resources will be required to contribute to share financial and other benefits.  In this blog we focus on those provisions of the BBNJ which will have the most direct impact on companies.Continue Reading Historic Marine Biodiversity Treaty creates new Access and Benefit-Sharing obligations for life sciences companies

The European Commission is expected to present a Proposal for a Directive on Green Claims  (“Proposed Green Claims Directive” or “the Proposal”) within the next few months.  Together with the Proposal for a Directive empowering consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information (“Consumer Empowerment Directive Proposal”), the Proposed Green Claims Directive would contribute to the EU’s green transition towards a circular, climate-neutral and clean economy by creating a common methodology for the substantiation of green claims that concern the environmental footprint of products, services and companies.  It would aim to reduce greenwashing and enable consumers to take informed purchasing decisions based on reliable information about the sustainability of products and traders.

If adopted, it is likely to significantly limit the environmental claims that businesses can make in the EU/EEA.  Businesses may want to consider approaching the Commission to try to influence the final legislative proposal that it is expected to present by March 2023.  Once the Commission presents its legislative proposal, businesses should consider proposing amendments to the European Parliament and Council. Continue Reading Upcoming EU Rules on Green Claims

The European Union (“EU”) has passed the world’s most far-reaching mandatory environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) reporting regime.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (“CSRD”) will apply to an initial group of large EU companies from 2024 and gradually extend its reach to smaller companies over the course of the following four years. It is ultimately expected to apply to more than 50,000 companies incorporated, listed, or doing business in the EU. Notably, from 2028 the CSRD will apply to non-EU parent companies that generate more than EUR 150M of net turnover in the EU and have at least one EU subsidiary subject to the CSRD (or a local branch of a certain size). (See Appendix for a table with detailed information on the CSRD’s application thresholds and dates.)Continue Reading EU Mandatory ESG Reporting Takes Shape: CSRD is Passed and EFRAG Adopts Draft ESRS

On December 20, 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands confirmed the judgements of a District Court and an Appeal Court requiring the Dutch Government to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions of 25% by 2020 compared to 1990, instead of the 20% reduction that the government had envisioned since 2011. The case was brought by the Urgenda Foundation — a Dutch NGO — and has resulted in a landmark decision that may influence climate change litigation in other countries across Europe, such as the lawsuit filed by NGOs in Germany on January 15, 2020.
Continue Reading The Dutch Supreme Court holds that the Netherlands Has a Human Rights Obligation to Mitigate Climate Change: The Urgenda Case