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Green buzz words are so commonplace in the marketing materials of brands and corporations, despite a distinct lack of change and action to support these claims. In every sector from fashion to holidays, energy to cosmetics, if feels like the sea of greenwashing is swirling around us, and it can be hard to stay afloat. But what’s that on the horizon? The lifeboat we’ve all been waiting for…

After finding that 40% of green claims made online in 2021 could be misleading, at the end of last year The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced new guidance for businesses to combat the unsubstantiated green credentials, we’re so used to seeing. The Green Claims Code is based on six core principles:

  1. Claims must be truthful and accurate
  2. Claims must be clear and unambiguous
  3. Claims must not omit or hide important relevant information
  4. Comparisons must be fair and meaningful
  5. Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service
  6. Claims must be substantiated

As of this month (January 2022) the CMA launches its widescale review of misleading green claims, including those found online, in-store, and on packaging; initially prioritising the biggest offenders: fashion, travel, transport, food, and drink.

While this may sound very shiny and new, The Green Claims Code is in fact not new legislation, it did already exist but with lack of enforcement powers, businesses faced no consequences if they weren’t compliant. This month’s legislative change however, is an incredible (long-awaited) step that will even the playing field, preventing brands from taking competitive advantage over others with misleading claims, designed to tempt more than half of Brits who are influenced by a brand’s eco-credentials when making a purchase.

CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli, said: “We’re concerned that too many businesses are falsely taking credit for being green, while genuinely eco-friendly firms don’t get the recognition they deserve”.

So, what does it mean for companies that breach the rules? Aside from damaging their reputation and sales, if a business fails to comply with this consumer protection law, they could also face civil action or even criminal prosecution.

Of course, things won’t change overnight, and it will likely take some big companies to be held to account as examples before it starts really filtering down the chain, but it’s a welcome start. A recognition that organisations have been misleading consumers and gaining competitive advantages over authentic brands, all the while still causing harm to the planet.

The sea of green may still be choppy, but we’re done floating around aimlessly. We can see the shore and we’ll keep swimming until we get there!

Written by
Francesca Gallone