Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Businesses urged to back up sustainability claims

The ACCC is urging businesses to track and substantiate claims they make about environmental sustainability in a bid to stamp out ‘greenwashing’.

On July 14, the ACCC released draft guidelines about sustainability claims after an internet sweep found 57% of reviewed businesses were ‘greenwashing’, making potentially misleading claims about their environmental actions.

Concerning practices identified ranged from businesses overstating their climate action to companies developing their own certification schemes.

“As consumers become more environmentally conscious, businesses need to be honest and transparent when making environmental or sustainability claims, so consumers are not being misled,” says ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

“False or misleading claims can undermine consumer trust in all green claims, particularly when consumers are often paying higher prices based on these claims.”

The ACCC has proposed eight guiding principles for businesses sharing their sustainability goals and actions, including making accurate and truthful claims that don’t exaggerate, having evidence to back up claims and being open about objectives.

Sustainable Choice Group founder and CEO Kiarne Treacy says she isn’t at all surprised that the consumer watchdog has issued the advice to businesses.

“We’ve been waiting for this move for a while now,” she says. “Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue to Australians and people want to see real action being taken.

“Businesses can no longer just say they’re working to be environmentally conscious – they need to show it.

“With so many businesses found to be ‘greenwashing’ and misleading consumers with their claims, it’s more important than ever that those who are selling sustainability as a benefit are clearly outlining the steps they are taking.”

Ms Treacy points to SustainabilityTracker.com, a web platform for businesses to maintain a public record of their social and environmental actions with supportive evidence.

“Consumers want to see the proof,” she says.

Businesses who have signed on to the platform can publish up-to-date accreditations, certificates, audits and full product life cycle breakdowns.

Businesses already on the platform include Volvo, Who Gives A Crap, John West and Snooze.

“We know consumers want to vote with their wallet,” says Ms Treacy.

“What they don’t want, however, is to have to go trawling through websites to make sense of a green leaf on a label.

“Just like we use realestate.com.au to search properties, or SEEK for jobs, SustainabilityTracker.com is the digital destination for sustainability information.”

The ACCC is seeking feedback from businesses, consumers and other stakeholders on the draft guidance. Consultation is now open and closes on 15 September.

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