How to avoid making false environmental claims

6th July 2023

Businesses need to understand and comply with their responsibilities under consumer protection law when making environmental claims. This also applies to any claims made by businesses across their website or social media, which means that the appropriate training needs to be delivered across all levels of sales and marketing – from digital chat assistants to content creators.

Greenwashing and the Consumer Rights Act

Environmentally friendly language is becoming increasingly common in advertising and marketing, and it is the commonplace for organisations to publish their recycling and welfare commitments on their products and packaging.

The term “Greenwashing” is when an organisation makes broad or unsubstantiated environmental claims that mislead consumers into buying their products or services. For example, claiming that a product or service is part of a sustainable supply chain, but not considering the supply chain as a whole.

Organisations need to ensure that they are not falling foul of “greenwashing” when entering into agreements for goods and services. This is an area that is receiving increasing levels of attention, with the Competition and Markets Authority finding that four out of ten “green” claims are misleading consumers.

Consumer Rights Act

Consumers are protected when purchasing goods and services or entering supply contracts by the Consumer Rights Act (2015).

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, companies are prohibited from making false or misleading claims, which includes claims about the environmental impact of their products or services.

Companies must be able to substantiate their environmental claims and must not exaggerate or make unfair comparisons. This even includes using “green” logos, images, or slogans, for example, making packaging green, misusing recycling labels, or using buzzwords such as “conscious” or “earth”.

Description and quality

The Consumer Rights Act also requires goods and services to comply with the descriptions that are given about them. Again, this means that companies must take care to ensure that descriptions about the characteristics of a product or service are not exaggerated.

If a statement on environmental viability turns out to be inaccurate, a consumer may have the right to claim for breach of contract.

This also includes sales or marketing teams giving verbal information or posting on social media.

Next steps

  • Review all advertisements and product materials to ensure they provide only accurate and relevant information about goods, services, and digital content.
  • Train staff to be aware of the changes and in particular, the importance of being accurate, especially in the sales process.
  • Review your returns and complaints policies.
  • Review and update your terms and conditions to comply with the Consumer Rights Act and ensure that any contractual documentation does not make unsubstantiated references (i.e., a commitment to only using carbon neutral processes).

If you need advice about how to safeguard your business and comply with consumer protection laws, were here to help, get in touch.

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