Greenwash is out of control on supermarket shelves. We investigated this back in 1996 — and it’s much worse now. The range of claims has grown and many are unsubstantiated. Others are irrelevant, only a small part of the story, or downright lies.
The market is failing to provide consumers who want to go green with reliable information about which products have a lower environmental impact. It doesn’t have to be this way. A system that could fix the problem is within reach.
- First, we need to see companies complying with the Australian Standard on Green Claims (AS 14021). At present this Standard is voluntary, and so widely ignored! As a matter of urgency the Standard should be made mandatory for the worst product categories for greenwash — household cleaners and paper/tissue products.
- Supermarkets should get their own house in order. All green claims for supermarket 'own brand' products should comply with the Australian Standard and be certified against reliable benchmarks.
- Industry Associations that cover companies supplying goods to consumers should make adherence to the Australian Standard a requirement for their members.
- The ACCC, which recently released a useful guide to green marketing claims, should now target the area of green claims for additional enforcement action.
- And the Australian Standard itself should be updated to reflect current environmental issues like greywater use and carbon neutrality.
Winner! Greenwash arms race
Manufacturers are arming their products with more and more green claims, to differentiate them from others.
Our investigation found an average of five green claims on each pack of toilet paper. Some even had eight or nine claims.
Toilet paper has the dubious honour of winning the greenwash arms race — consumers beware.