Being “green” has been such a trend lately and many of us have been fooled into believing we’re saving the world. This post is about greenwashing. Greenwashing means making misleading statements about how eco-friendly a product or service is. Companies often make deceptive, although not completely untrue, claims. For example, a newly launched household appliance might boast less energy usage but might fail to specify that will use twice as much water as an older or a rival model. We, consumers, often buy into these marketing strategies and wrongly believe we’re saving the planet!
Various misleading environmental claims fail to comply with the restrictions contained in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations while instances of greenwashing often contravene regulations which prohibit false and misleading commercial practices or commercial practices serving to hide or obfuscate material information. A deceptive eco-claim constitutes an offence if it causes or is likely to cause consumers to enter into a transaction when they would not otherwise have done so as provided by Articles 6 and 7 of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005, in the US, under §5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act 1914, and in Australia, under Section 18 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Consumers often demand big companies that are producing all types of goods and providing all kinds of services to become greener. They see it as a minimum requirement if they want to stay on the market. But they also smartened up lately and ask whether everything we see marketed as “environmentally friendly” is really that green. Corporate Social Responsibility has been trendy for the last few years. The pressure to improve is so putting many companies under stress so quite a few of them resort to “greenwashing”: using marketing techniques to pretend compliance with sustainability requirements without actually striving for them. These practices result in misleading consumers with irrelevant claims, unfair competition, and an overall negative impact on consumers’ health. To alleviate the problem, The EU has carried out a yearly “sweep” exercise on market vigilance to protect consumers against untruthful green claims. The results drawn from this study concluded that over 50% of claims were not offering clear information to the consumer; 37% included vague and misleading statements, and 59% of the claims were not sufficiently backed up by evidence.
The EU is planning to provide better information on product sustainability and protection against “greenwashing” practices and new regulations based on which, companies can substantiate their green claims.