Corporate regulator the ACCC is investigating more than 100 Australian companies for potential ‘greenwashing’ after an internet sweep found more than half of the businesses reviewed had made ‘concerning claims’ about their environmental or sustainability practices.
The ACCC reviewed 247 businesses across a range of sectors including energy, vehicles, household products and appliances, food and drink packaging, cosmetics, clothing and footwear, with 57% identified as having made 'concerning claims about their environmental credentials.'
"Our sweep indicates a significant proportion of businesses are making vague or unclear environmental claims,” said ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe (pictured). “This warrants further scrutiny.
"Already, we have several active investigations underway across the packaging, consumer goods, food manufacturing and medical devices sectors for alleged misleading environmental claims and these may grow, as we continue to conduct more targeted assessments into businesses and claims identified through the sweep. We will take enforcement action where it is appropriate to do so as it is critical that consumer trust in green claims is not undermined."
"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.
"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.
“We encourage businesses to come forward if they become aware they have made false or misleading marketing claims. 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," Lowe said.
The ACCC encourages consumers and businesses to contact the ACCC to report any potentially misleading environmental or sustainability claims. Report through the ACCC website or by contacting the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.
Under the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA), the ACCC can use powers under s155 of the Act to obtain information, documents and evidence in relation to matters which may constitute a contravention of the CCA. The ACCC can also issue substantiation notices requiring a person or business to give information and/or produce documents that could be capable of substantiating or supporting a claim or representation made by the person or business.