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October 4, 2021

New Law On Environmental Claims.

Most companies don’t intend to greenwash - there was simply no guidance until now. The new CMA report has legal implications from January 2022 and will require expert knowledge to navigate the science that underpins environmental claims.

Image by Jeremy Bishop

Words by illana adamson

What you need to know

There has been an increase in ‘rampant’ greenwashing over the past few years. Rather than this being a deliberate move, this happens most commonly when marketing teams are unfamiliar with the science that underpins environmental strategies. When companies make misleading claims consumers make ill advised choices, and the market is unfair for businesses that are investing in environmental protection.

So, during the summer (2021) the UK Competition and Markets Authority undertook a sweep of companies and found 40% to be greenwashing. This month they released “CMA guidance on environmental claims on goods and services” which means that starting in the new year the Trading Standards, the CMA and the ASA can bring court proceedings against greenwashing.

The report gives comprehensive guidance on how environmental claims can be presented. Legal action can be taken against firms found to be exaggerating, making ambiguous claims or failing to substantiate their environmental claims.

The language in the (56 page) guidance is clear but the nuances in applying the points properly will require expert knowledge on how to navigate the science targets and data. The next 3 months are crucial in getting the necessary proof together to ensure firms are both compliant and credible.

Even if your company intentions are good, or you have a 3rd party certification, it doesn’t mean that you are automatically in the clear. For instance, Be Better looked at 5 well intentioned, ethical brands and 4 were found to be greenwashing under the new guidance.

Greenwashing definition: an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is: (Cambridge Dictionary)

Who does this effect?

Any company making environmental claims.

Terms such as (but not restricted to); sustainable, green, eco, natural, organic, conscious, better for the earth, better for the environment, natures friend, save the planet, environmentally friendly, energy efficient, less plastic, plastic free, reducing waste, planetary health, compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, lower carbon impact, NetZero, Carbon Neutral, will all be under the microscope.

This does not mean that those terms should not be used it just means that we need claims made by firms to be substantiated and aligned with scientific targets.

The law applies to any business operating in the UK making environmental claims: B2B, B2C, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers - goods and services or a particular component or aspect of them.

In the spotlight..

All business communication; advertisements, marketing material, branding (including business and trading names), on packaging, in store, online, or in other information provided to consumers including imagery and logos.

Why is this happening?

1 - To protect consumers from unfair practices or misleading claims

2 - To make markets work well for consumers and businesses

3 - To elevate brands that genuinely represent a better environmental choice

4 - Greenwashing doesn’t help us to leave the planet in better shape

What should you do?

Engage an expert in corporate sustainability with a deep understanding of the science that underpins environmental claims. They can compare your company claims against the new guidance and advise compliant language to use. In our experience most organisations do not intend to mislead but teams do not contain a sustainability expert to navigate the language and bridge the science.

Be Better is offering a “Company Health Check against Greenwashing” with our Founder CEO Illana. She has 20 + years in academic and professional solutions for sustainable business strategy alongside 30 + years in marketing, which puts her in a unique position to help your firm navigate this change.

Every business will require a bespoke solution that allows their message to shine, so we help to apply the nuanced complexities and quantify your claims. If your needs require deep knowledge in a niche disciplines we have an extended team of experts at hand.

We speak your language and we translate the science in the new guidance. A ‘Company Health Check against Greenwashing’- ensures your company is compliant, credible and future proofed.

“Company Health Check against Greenwashing”

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