Party-free children's party bags Gina Fox

40% of 'eco-friendly' claims are misleading

1 minute read

Buying ‘green’ products can be quite the minefield, especially if you pay extra for one that’s environmentally-friendly or sustainable… you want to know that it's money well spent!

An annual, global website sweep by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) has revealed a worrying 40% of all ‘eco-friendly’ claims could be misleading consumers. This year’s search was conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK and the equivalent body in the Netherlands.

The search found there to be a lack of clear language with terms such as ‘eco’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural’ being used without any supporting evidence.

The investigation also found that many logos and labels that were used weren’t actually associated with an accredited organisation. In some extreme cases, information had even been omitted from websites in an effort to seem more eco-friendly.

The search found there to be a lack of clear language with terms such as ‘eco’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural’ being used without any supporting evidence.

This investigation hasn’t confirmed whether consumer protection law has been broken through these misleading claims but, if it is, then the CMA in the UK says it will “take appropriate action”.

There are signs of potential change on the horizon. The CMA also held a consultation at the end of last year (closed December 2020) to investigate misleading claims related to ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ products, gathering views about our shopping habits when it comes to buying environmentally friendly items. You can find out more about the consultation, and our response here.

In our response we expressed concern for the misleading labelling of products that confuses consumers as to the correct disposal and use of products.

In 2018 we commissioned a YouGov survey asking members of the British public about their understanding of the labels ‘bioplastic’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’. The data showed that 60% of consumers understood that if the product was labelled as compostable, it meant that it could be composted at home. However, a large number of products (we would suggest the majority) are actually only certified for industrial composting.

Top tips to avoid greenwashing:

  • Think about moving to reusable products as much as feasible
  • When opting for single-use products, think about whether a suitable and effective disposal route
  • For seafood, use the Good Fish Guide, which rates the sustainability of seafood. Look out for credible third party eco-labels too, like the Marine Conservation Society's Blue Tick, ASC and Organic

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