Greenwashing – a thing of the past?

Sustainability is a topic in which consumers and businesses are increasingly interested. As more people start making purchasing decisions based on sustainability, it is important that consumers are presented with accurate information that allows them to make informed decisions. This is where the Green Claims Code comes in. 

Green claims are claims that show how a product, service, brand or business provides a benefit or is less harmful to the environment[1]. The Green Claims Code was developed by the CMA following a review of randomly selected websites which found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers[2].

The Code focuses on the following six principles. Claims must:

  1. be truthful and accurate;
  2. be clear and unambiguous;
  3. not omit or hide important information;
  4. include only fair and meaningful comparisons;
  5. consider the full life cycle of the product; and
  6. be substantiated.

While the Code clearly focuses on consumer marketing, the principles and guidance can be applied to other areas of a company’s sustainability communications. Businesses should start asking themselves hard questions about the actual impact of their products and services, and how sustainable they really are. For example, if a business does not use renewable energy but has pictures of wind farms in its Sustainability Report, this could mislead customers into thinking the products have been manufactured using renewable energy. ‘Do we have evidence to back up our claims?’, ‘Is this image misleading?’ and ‘Does the impression of this claim match up to the facts?’ are all examples of questions that need to be front and centre in communications and marketing discussions.

While the Code focuses on the environmental side of sustainability, the principles of the Code can be applied to other sustainability issues. For example, let’s think about gender diversity. A company may claim to be gender diverse, achieving a 50:50 male:female ratio, and claim to put diversity at the heart of the business. However, is that company achieving a 50:50 split across all levels of the business or are most women in junior positions? Is the company recruiting lots of women but failing to promote and retain them? Is there enough evidence to back up the vague claim that ‘diversity is at the heart of the business’ and is this evidence readily available? Practising this way of thinking can help to ensure your sustainability communications are robust, and creates a level playing field for businesses whose products genuinely present a better choice for the environment.

You can find the guidance and checklist for green claims here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/green-claims-code-making-environmental-claims

This is a step in the right direction to tackle greenwashing, and a win for all businesses that truly make a positive environmental impact. Be sure to confer with your legal team for exactly how to comply with the Green Claims Code.

If you would like to discuss The Green Claims Code and your sustainability communications, please feel free to get in touch.

Anokhi.Kalayil@Luminous.co.uk

References

[1] https://greenclaims.campaign.gov.uk/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/global-sweep-finds-40-of-firms-green-claims-could-be-misleading