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Vague and misleading ‘green’ claims on everyday essentials probed

Written by: Rebecca Goodman
Essential items such as food, drinks and cleaning products which are branded as ‘green’ have come under the spotlight as the watchdog continues to review 'greenwashing' claims across industries.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a review of everyday essentials such as food, drink, cleaning products and toiletries to find out if shoppers are being misled with packaging or marketing which claim to benefit the environment.

It said concerning practices could include the use of vague and broad eco-statements where a product appears to be ‘sustainable’ or ‘better for the environment’ with no evidence, as well as misleading claims about the use of recycled or natural materials in a product and how recyclable it is, to and entire ranges being incorrectly branded as ‘sustainable’.

If companies are found to be misleading shoppers, the CMA may take enforcement action.

Last year, shoppers spent over £130bn on household essentials and many of these are advertised as being environmentally friendly.

Up to 91% of dishwashing items and 100% of toilet products are marketed as being either green or environmentally friendly.

It follows on from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s crackdown into greenwashing of financial products while an investigation by revealed green mortgages are often more expensive than standard mortgage deals.

Environmental claims to be scrutinised

The review by the CMA will focus on ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ (FMCG) which are essential items used on a daily basis.

Environmental claims made online and in shops about these items are to be analysed to make sure they comply with UK consumer protection law.

If products do use terms such as being ethical, sustainable or using recycled materials, the watchdog will check if there’s evidence to prove these.

Shoppers being ‘misled’ for products that aren’t what they seem

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: “As more people than ever try to do their bit to help protect the environment, we’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem, especially at a time when the cost of living continues to rise.

“Our work to date has shown there could be greenwashing going on in this sector, and we’ll be scrutinising companies big and small to see whether their environmental claims stack up. Now is a good time for businesses to review their practices and make sure they’re operating within the law.”

The CMA has previously looked into greenwashing in the fashion sector and has launched the Green Claims Code, to help businesses understand how to market their green credentials.

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