How to avoid greenwashing

Feb. 18, 2022, 10 a.m. • By Nisha Sarki

Recently, it’s common for businesses to participate in eco-marketing, whether their claims are substantiated or not.

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 This plays on consumers' desire to buy more environmentally friendly products in recent years. As Urska Trunk, the campaign manager for Changing Markets mentioned: “while brands are quick to capitalise on consumer concern by using sustainability as a marketing ploy, the vast majority of such claims are all style and no substance”.

Most of the time, brands are not intentionally trying to deceive their consumers into buying products that are not actually sustainable as advertised. In a nutshell, this is greenwashing, and this is exactly what the CMA is attempting to crack down on with the help of the Green Claims Code. The Code serves two purposes: first, it makes it easier for businesses to avoid greenwashing and; second, it also protects consumers from being deceived by businesses who use greenwashing as a marketing tool.

Even though the Green Claims Code is pretty thorough, it is also brimming with a lot of information. It can get a bit confusing to know where to start. So, if you own a brand and you want to avoid greenwashing, we have written down a few tips in this article on how to follow the six key principles of the Code successfully.


The six key principles of the Green Claims Code are:

1.      Claims must be truthful and accurate.

2.      Claims must be clear and unambiguous.

3.      Claims must not omit or hide important information.

4.      Claims must only make fair and meaningful comparisons.

5.      Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product.

6.      Claims must be substantiated.



Check your claims

First and foremost, it is important to check any green or environmental claims made about your products or your services. Make sure to check any off-pack and online channels for these claims. These claims can be implicit, referring to any suggested marketing with colours, pictures and/ or logos. Alternatively, the claims can be explicit.

Once you are aware of all the green claims your business has made about either the product or service, it is much easier to check it against the six key principles of the Code.



Be as specific as possible

To avoid the cracking whip of the CMA, it is best to avoid broad and vague terms such as ‘sustainable product’ or ‘eco-friendly’. These claims do not mean anything without specification. Otherwise, it would be considered to apply to the entire life cycle of the product. Without evidence of such, this could result in some trouble from the CMA. A real-life example of this is L’Oreal’s ‘vegan-friendly’ hair care when they test on animals in their supply chain. For the product to be ‘vegan-friendly’, it would have to not only include vegan-friendly ingredients, but it would also have to adhere to such ethics within the rest of its supply chain.  

Instead, it is better to go into detail on exactly how your brand is trying to be more sustainable or eco-friendly. So, if your product is carbon neutral, for example, it would be better to market the product as carbon neutral instead of calling it ‘sustainable’. Conversely, you could market it by stating ‘the brand is trying to be more sustainable by following the processes of a life cycle assessment and making the product within the business carbon neutral’.



Knowledge is Key

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to avoid punishment from the CMA for greenwashing or if you’re simply just trying to do better for the environment, the more you know the better prepared you will be. This principle applies to both the knowledge of the Green Claims Code and the knowledge of how your business could impact the environment.

Apart from being plastic-free as a business or recycling, it’s hard to know where to start your journey to owning a more sustainable brand. One of the easiest things you can do is consult a meeting with an environmental consultancy, like C Free. We can help you understand and guide you on your journey to owning a more sustainable brand as easy and accessible as possible.



How C Free can help

As mentioned above, the first thing an environmental consultancy like C Free can do to help is to supply you with premium information about the impact of your business on the planet. We do this by providing a carbon calculation report that shows the impact of the business on the planet, with bespoke algorithms based on the most up-to-date government statistics and access to private databases. By providing you with a report that contains the most accurate calculation of your business’ footprint, it will then be easier to make further decisions on how to:

1.      Partake in the sustainability movement whilst following the Green Claims Code with integrity; and

2.      To be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis rather than being the problem.

Our specialists will then work with your business to find a reduction strategy that maximises your impact and increases your efficiency. From there, you can choose between a few options that fit your brand the most. So, you can either have:

1.      A carbon neutral workforce;

2.      A carbon neutral business; or

3.      A carbon neutral product.

Therefore, by the end of the process you can successfully claim either your workforce, business or product is ‘Carbon Neutral’. By going down this route, you are not likely to be penalised as you will be following the six key principles of the Green Claims Code.

If this is of interest to you, please send us an email. Alternatively, book in a demo to see how we can help you avoid accidental greenwashing.   


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