Food and drink targeted in new greenwash offensive

Regulators have stepped up their war against greenwash by targeting environmental claims made for household essentials.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will focus on claims made for everyday foods, drinks and toiletries amid concerns that shoppers are being misled.

The latest move marks an expansion of the CMA’s work to ensure products and services that claim to be green or eco-friendly are being marketed to shoppers accurately.

It said a significant number of household products make such claims, including up to 91% of all dishwashing items and 100% of toilet products.

The CMA plans to scrutinise companies of all sizes to see whether their environmental claims stack up for products sold both online and in store.

Businesses are being urged to review their practices and make sure they’re operating within UK consumer protection law. If the CMA uncovers evidence suggesting green claims could be unfounded it will consider taking enforcement action using its formal powers – for example, opening an investigation into specific companies.

Concerning practices could include the use of vague and broad eco-statements where, for example, a product or packaging is marketed as ‘sustainable’ or ‘better for the environment’ with no evidence.

The CMA also plans to clamp down on misleading claims about the use of recycled or natural materials in a product and how recyclable it is; and where entire ranges have been incorrectly branded as ‘sustainable’.

“These products are the essentials on everyone’s shopping lists: food and drink, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste, cleaning products,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA. “As more people than ever try to do their bit to help protect the environment, we’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem, especially at a time when the cost of living continues to rise.”

The move comes as part of the CMA’s ongoing work into misleading green claims. It has already produced the ‘green claims code’ – a guide to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, while avoiding the risk of misleading shoppers.

The CMA also said this week that it will ease restrictions on how closely businesses can co-operate when it comes to sustainability plans. Cardell revealed plans to loosen the antitrust rules on climate change initiatives to tackle business concerns that collaboration on climate action could expose them to claims of collusion, the FT reported.

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