Social movements and legislative change is pushing businesses to operate sustainably and produce, distribute and service with minimal or no impact on the environment. This is leading to many organisations sharing their green claims with consumers and businesses to gain a competitive advantage.
Green claims (also known as environmental claims or eco-friendly claims) are claims that suggest that a product, service, brand or business provides a benefit, or is less harmful to the environment. Some of these claims are not always true and sometimes misleading or miss out important information.
Green claims are genuine when they properly describe the impact of a product, brand, business or service, with evidence to back it up.
Claims can be misleading if any information is untrue or hidden, if information is misrepresented or if it is taken out of context.
Consumer protection law does not stop organisations from making green claims about their products and services, provided they do not mislead consumers. It provides a framework for businesses to make environmental claims that help consumers make informed decisions. Consumer protection law therefore gives consumers crucial protection in relation to environmental claims.
CMA’s guidance sets out principles which are designed to help businesses comply with the law.
The principles are:
• 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
• claims must be substantiated
The guidance explains these principles in detail and gives examples of how each of them applies and more detailed case studies where multiple principles apply. The guidance also sets out the legal framework on which these principles are based. If businesses follow these principles they are, in the CMA’s view, less likely to mislead consumers and less likely to fall foul of the law. It also important to note While it is designed to help businesses, this guidance is not legal advice. Responsibility for complying with the law remains with businesses themselves.
It’s always wise to check the green claims checklist. When making a green claim, your organisation should be able to answer ‘yes’ or agree to each of the below statements:
The claim is accurate and clear for everyone to understand
There’s up-to-date, credible evidence to show that the green claim is true
The claim clearly tells the whole story of a product or service; or relates to one part of the product or service without misleading people about the other parts or the overall impact on the environment
The claim doesn’t contain partially correct or incorrect aspects or conditions that apply
Where general claims (eco-friendly, green or sustainable for example) are being made, the claim reflects the whole life cycle of the brand, product, business or service and is justified by the evidence
If conditions (or caveats) apply to the claim, they’re clearly set out and can be understood by all
The claim won’t mislead customers or other suppliers
The claim doesn’t exaggerate its positive environmental impact, or contain anything untrue – whether clearly stated or implied
Durability or disposability information is clearly explained and labelled
The claim doesn’t miss out or hide information about the environmental impact that people need to make informed choices
Information that really can’t fit into the claim can be easily accessed by customers in another way (QR code, website, etc.)
Features or benefits that are necessary standard features or legal requirements of that product or service type, aren’t claimed as environmental benefits
If a comparison is being used, the basis of it is fair and accurate, and is clear for all to understand