Remove greenwashing by 2022, businesses told

Businesses have until the end of the year to ensure any environmental claims they make comply with the law, the Competition and Markets Authority has warned.

The CMA this week published new guidance to help companies avoid greenwashing. The Green Claims Code is based on six principles: claims must be truthful and accurate; claims must be clear and unambiguous; claims must not omit or hide important relevant information; comparisons must be fair and meaningful; claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service; and claims must be substantiated.

“We hope it will give confidence to those businesses whose products are genuinely ‘green’ to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions,” the CMA said.

The new guidance was broadly welcomed in a consultation over the summer. The questions businesses should ask of themselves when making claims were particularly useful, according to the likes of the British Retail Consortium.

The final document includes further examples and explanations.

The CMA is now giving businesses until the end of the year to get to grips with the guidance. A full review of misleading green claims, both online and offline will commence in 2022, with food a drink likely to be a target sector. “Where there is clear evidence of breaches of consumer law, we may also take action before the formal review begins,” the CMA said.

Some industry representatives felt the CMA was cutting businesses too much slack. With COP26 on the horizon and environmental concerns in the spotlight, brands could be tempted to stretch their green claims.

In its response to the consultation, the Foodservice Packaging Association questioned “why enforcement will not take place from day one, as we feel those that are currently offending are not doing so because of ignorance of the current laws or because their understanding of their claims is weak. They know exactly what they are doing and are totally exploitative.”

A CMA analysis of claims being made on 495 websites found that 40% “appeared to be using tactics that could be considered misleading and therefore potentially breaking consumer law”.

Footprint has previously highlighted dubious claims made by supermarkets. Greenwashing has also spread during the pandemic.

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