The green claims code is a new piece of UK legislation that aims to tackle greenwashing, developed and enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The green claims code is broad and applies to all commercial practices, including advertisements, product labelling, packaging, product names and descriptions.
Green claims (also known as environmental claims) are claims that suggest a product, service or brand provides a benefit or is less harmful to the environment.
Companies tend to make these claims when marketing products or services. These claims are genuine when they accurately describe the impact of a brand, product, or service, with evidence to back it up.
Green claims are misleading if the information is false or misleading; if the information is taken out of context and misrepresented.
Green claim checklist
When making green claims, businesses must comply with consumer protection law.
It is also essential to comply with any sector- or product-specific laws that apply to a product or service. Before making a green claim, businesses should understand how their product, brand, or business has an impact – both positively and negatively – on the environment for its whole life cycle.
When making a green claim, a business should be able to answer ‘yes’ or agree to each of the following statements:
Green claims MUST:
1. Be truthful and accurate: Businesses must live up to the claims they make about their products, services, brands, and activities
2. Be clear and unambiguous: The meaning that a consumer is likely to take from a product’s messaging and the credentials of that product should match
3. Not omit or hide important information: Claims must not prevent someone from making an informed choice because of the information they leave out
4. Only make fair and meaningful comparisons: Any products compared should meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose
5. Consider the full life cycle of the product: When making claims, businesses must consider the total impact of a product or service. Claims can be misleading where they don’t reflect the overall impact or where they focus on one aspect of it but not another
6. Be substantiated: Businesses should be able to back up their claims with robust, credible and up-to-date evidence
Consequences of non-compliance
The CMA clarifies that failure to comply with consumer protection law could result in the CMA or other bodies (e.g. Trading Standards Services) bringing court proceedings or requirements to pay redress to harmed consumers. The ASA may also take action against misleading advertisements breaching the CAP or BCAP Codes.