Green watch

Sorting the dodgy green claims from the genuine ones can be a minefield.
 
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  • Updated:27 Nov 2009
 

02.Why it's important to stop greenwash

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From food and everyday household items to cars and plane flights, growing numbers of consumers want to make more sustainable choice. But not all 'green claims' can be trusted.

The issue

Consumers need reliable, simple and comparable information to make greener choices.

Information on product labels and in advertising can be useful for helping consumers make better decisions.

But consumers are getting bombarded by greenwash: deceptive marketing designed to portray a company or product as caring for the environment.

Organisations may mislead consumers by promoting themselves and their products as 'eco-friendly', 'green', 'sustainable' or 'environmentally friendly' and so on, when in fact they are having a negative or negligible impact.

Greenwash has serious consequences. It can prevent real green change by:

  • diverting spending towards products with negligible or non-existent benefits
  • preventing truly green products from differentiating themselves
  • encouraging more greenwash, rather than product innovation.

The Trade Practices Act prohibits companies from making misleading and deceptive claims — green or otherwise. The problem is that while many examples of greenwash may not breach the Trade Practices Act, they’re just not helpful for consumers or the environment.

 

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What we want

We want companies that make green claims to:

  • comply with Australian Standard 14021
  • make accurate, clearly expressed and easy to understand green claims
  • make precise, unambiguous claims, that are easily verifiable
  • strictly comply with the Australian Association of National Advertiser’s (AANA) new Environmental Claims in Advertising and Marketing Code.

We want supermarkets to lead by ensuring their 'own brand' products comply with the Australian Standard, and certify them against reliable benchmarks.

We want industry associations that supply consumer products to demand that their members comply with the Australian Standard.

We want the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to be much tougher when enforcing the Trade Practices Act for green claims, so consumers can be sure there are no false and misleading claims on products and in media advertising.

We want the federal government to:

  • $nameupdate the Australian Standard for making environmental claims so it can cope with claims like 'sustainable', 'carbon neutral' and 'greywater safe'. 
  • mandate compliance with the standard for the most greenwashed product categories, starting with paper/tissue products and household cleaners.
  • identify and promote the reliable, rigorous and relevant environmental labelling schemes - through a consumer education program and website.
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