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Four in ten firms’ green claims could be misleading

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Consumers looking to make green and sustainable online purchases may be being misled by marketing used by 40% of firms.

A random review of 500 international websites promoting green products and services across the clothing, cosmetic and food sectors has found that 40% may include misleading environmental claims.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which is already investigating misleading environmental claims said that the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) global sweep suggest firms may be breaking the law.

This includes:

  • Vague claims and unclear language including terms such as ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ or reference to ‘natural products’ without adequate explanation or evidence of the claims
  • Own brand eco logos and labels not associated with an accredited organisation.
  • Hiding or omitting certain information, such as a products pollution levels, to appear more eco-friendly.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “Too many websites appear to be pushing misleading claims onto consumers, which means that companies offering products with a genuine environmental benefit are not getting the customers they deserve. People should be able to easily choose between those companies who are doing the right thing for the environment and those who are not.

“This is a global issue, so it’s only right that we look at it in a global context. Our joint work with other regulators will help us identify the big issues facing consumers and protect people from paying a premium for fake ‘eco-friendly’ products.”

The CMA added that at this stage, ICPEN has not reached a view as to whether or not consumer protection law has been broken. However, if the CMA finds evidence that businesses are misleading UK consumers, it will take appropriate action.

Michael Briggs, Which? head of sustainability, said: “This latest research by regulators is a stark warning that many companies are failing to live up to environmental claims about their products and services, leaving the growing number of consumers looking to make more sustainable choices at risk of being misled.

“It’s vital that manufacturers and retailers put a stop to greenwashing so that people can trust the information they see and make informed decisions. Otherwise the regulator must be prepared to take action to tackle this issue.”