Greenwashing has finally been accepted by the government as an unacceptable, unethical, and unsustainable practice. And speaking as a founder of an authentically eco-friendly brand, not a moment too soon.
The question is, will the new Green Claims Code make a difference? And if so, how?
The New Green Claims Code
In recognition of what many eco brands have been saying for years, according to the Government, ‘’A CMA coordinated global review of randomly selected websites has so far found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers”.
This is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, because greenwashing takes many forms, from misleading claims on websites to using design and packaging to imply green credentials that aren’t there.
The new Code, to be managed by the Competitions and Markets Authority is a set of principles to which businesses must adhere, in how they present and market their goods and services. If they claim to offer an environmental benefit, this must be robust and stand up to scrutiny. Businesses found to be in violation of the code may be subject to civil and criminal proceedings. They may also face action by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and be made to compensate consumers harmed through misleading claims.
The Green Claims Code covers;
- Use of terminology on packaging, in advertising, in all marketing related copy
- The use of terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘environmentally-friendly’
- Use of comparisons to make sure they are robust and accurate
- Whether claims stand up for the whole supply chain
- Ensuring businesses can supply evidence and/or certification for their claims
- What happens after the product is used, method of disposal
Empower, not just punish
The Green Claims Code hasn’t just been created to farm out punishments to brands whose marketing departments have jumped on the green bandwagon and are misleading consumers for financial gain.
It is there to educate, advise, and support. This is just as important because the environmentally-friendly piece is complex, evolving, and often misunderstood.
By offering clarity through a set of guidance and information, businesses will no longer be able to claim ignorance, or pay glib attention to the detail of whether their product really is natural, recyclable, compostable, or any other green term.
Instead, marketeers and business leaders will need to take responsibility and accountability for their understanding and the use of eco-terminology, only applying it if it’s truly justified. And they’ll have to improve the eco-credentials of their offering, if not.
In other words, it should push up ethical and environmental standards.
We can only hope.
Eco brands can lead the way
The great thing for businesses like ours is that consumers can already have confidence in the robustness of our eco-claims. We (and others like us) have invested in making sure our products are mostly derived from natural ingredients, work closely with, and support, environmental charities, work with our supply chains, and raise awareness of the importance of ethical and eco-friendly practices. In short, we have always had the planet at the very core of our vision, mission, and purpose.
For too long, eco-challenger brands have been on the back foot, trying to compete with greenwashing claims of others, convince consumers of their authenticity, fight for their place on the shelf, and grow from niche products to the norm.
Many brands like us have undertaken lengthy and costly processes to do the right thing, including working towards becoming a certified B Corp – a public recognition that we do put the planet before profit and make a positive impact on the world.
Currently, next to our product on the shelf could be a cut-price alternative, with copy and design implying it’s ‘green’ but manufactured by a company that has done none of the above. With this new Code – hopefully, no more.
The winner should be the consumer
It’s wrong that it’s always been entirely down to consumers to do their research, navigate confusing claims, and work out from labelling and certifications whether a brand is genuinely green or natural or ethical. Making this the responsibility of the brands themselves is absolutely the right thing to do. However, it won’t happen overnight, and like any guidance or principles, some will slip through the cracks.
So it’s good news that the Green Claims Code offers advice to shoppers as well as businesses, on what to look out for. Things like;
- Looking behind green and natural looking packaging
- Looking out for recognised official certifications
- Requesting evidence for green claims
- Thinking about not just the product itself, but what happens after you use it
- Being aware that sadly some businesses aren’t truthful, so you do need to exercise caution, and report claims if you feel they are misleading.
In our industry, cosmetics and beauty, this advice to consumers couldn’t be more relevant, or urgent. Overuse and lack of understanding over the term ‘natural’, single-use plastic and plastic packaging, and shockingly, cruelty to animals are far too prevalent.
It’s been our mission to raise awareness, education, and make it easier for consumers to make simple, sustainable bathroom swaps through our award-winning eco-warrior brand and our helpful eco-bathroom hub.
A step in the right direction
Any attempt to deal with the greenwashing issue is a positive step in the right direction.
At least, the presence of some kind of Code laid down in law gets the subject on the agenda and provides an incentive towards better practice. And the more consumers hear about it, the more empowered and knowledgeable they’ll be about researching brands’ claims and making sustainable shopping choices.
Do you really know what a robust green claim is? Do the Green Claims quiz here.
For updates and content on how to ‘green up’ your cleansing and grooming routine, keep an eye on our blog.