ACCC Discovers Concerning 'Greenwashing' Claims Online
After an internet sweep revealed that over 50% of the businesses reviewed made alarming statements about their environmental or sustainability practices, the ACCC will be scrutinising numerous companies for possible 'greenwashing.'
During the internet sweep, 247 businesses were reviewed, of which 57% were identified as having made concerning claims about their environmental credentials. The cosmetic, clothing, and food and drink sectors were among the worst offenders, although other industries also had a significant proportion of concerning claims.
ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe stated that "Our sweep indicates a significant proportion of businesses are making vague or unclear environmental claims. This warrants further scrutiny, and Consumers are now, more than ever, making purchasing decisions on environmental grounds. Unfortunately, it appears that rather than making legitimate changes to their practices and procedures, some businesses are relying on false or misleading claims. This conduct harms not only consumers but also those businesses taking genuine steps to implement more sustainable practices."
Lowe went on to explain that "Businesses using broad claims like 'environmentally friendly,' 'green,' or 'sustainable' are obliged to back up these claims through reliable scientific reports, transparent supply chain information, reputable third-party certification, or other forms of evidence."
The ACCC will be asking businesses to substantiate their claims, and several active investigations are already underway across various sectors for alleged misleading environmental claims.
To improve compliance with the Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC will conduct a range of educational activities with businesses, including updating economy-wide guidance material and targeted guidance for specific sectors. Lowe also encourages businesses to come forward if they become aware they have made false or misleading marketing claims, stating that "businesses who cooperate and advise of any issues with their operations will be considered more favourably than those who wait for the ACCC to unearth these problems."
The ACCC encourages consumers and businesses to report any potentially misleading environmental or sustainability claims through their website or by contacting the ACCC Infocentre.