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Trading Standards tackles Greenwashing for a sustainable future

Posted 12/11/21

Pledges were made this week by nations from across the globe to work towards carbon neutral targets to help save our planet for future generations. These are serious discussions about important issues; ultimately though its success will depend on how consumers embrace Net Zero and purchase products and services in a more environmentally friendly manner.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) highlighted today the risks to consumers from greenwashing as businesses leverage the value of making green claims about their products and services, as consumers become increasingly engaged with green issues.

 While there is no single definition, greenwashing is a form of marketing claim in which a product or service is made out to be more environmentally friendly than it actually is. 

Greenwashing can come in the form of 'green' claims on product labels through imagery or slogans. It is believed that both deliberate and accidental greenwashing is becoming increasingly prevalent. This year, a joint study by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), revealed that around 40% of green claims online could be misleading consumers. 

To help raise awareness CTSI released an infographic today, titled ‘Squash the Greenwash’ highlighting the pitfalls of greenwashing and how consumers can avoid them in the wake of the COP26 conference. The infographic also aims to help businesses not inadvertently make claims that could be considered greenwashing. Green products and their subsequent marketing is becoming increasingly important to consumers. This year, a Deloitte study on green consumers found that 34% of UK consumers now look for products with strong sustainability credentials. 

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: "Greenwashing is one of the new significant challenges for consumer protection, and it will be a growing problem as the Net Zero economy expands. More and more consumers are making sustainable lifestyle choices, and it is important that companies are not allowed to exploit their good intentions by making dishonest claims.

 We also want to make sure that companies that conform to the law are supported when they make green claims in good faith. The Net Zero agenda will eventually encompass practically every product, service and organisation in the country, and I cannot overstate its potential magnitude and impact upon consumers."

The frontline of protecting consumers will be delivered by a layering of defences ranging from legislation and regulators through to standards bodies and trading standards services. They are all working to reduce the risks to ensure consumer confidence in a market that we all want to see succeed because it will ultimately stop the damage from products that harm our environment. If products that mislead are allowed to get through it ultimately harms consumers but also means to say that COP26 targets will not be met because people will buy products that are not as environmentally safe as people think they are. 

For consumer advice in England and Wales, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. Welsh speakers can call 0808 223 1144.

 If in Scotland, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 , or if in Northern Ireland, contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262



The Greenwashing infographic is available in English and Welsh

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