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ACCC warns businesses it will take action over 'greenwashing'

Australian businesses need to be ready to substantiate any environmental or sustainability claims when marketing their goods and services, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a speech to the Sydney Morning Herald Sustainability Summit. “The ACCC won’t hesitate to take enforcement action," she said.

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delia rickard accc sept 22
       "Growing concerns":
            Delia Rickard,
       deputy chair ACCC

Rickard said the ACCC is actively targeting ‘greenwashing’ this year, warning businesses who make false or misleading claims undermine consumer trust and confidence in the market.

“Unfortunately, the ACCC is hearing growing concerns that some businesses are falsely promoting environmental or green credentials to capitalise on changing consumer preferences.

“Broad terms like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘sustainable’ have limited value and may mislead consumers, as they rarely provide enough information about what that exactly means in terms of the product or service consumers are considering purchasing," Rickard said.

“It is important that businesses can back up the claims they are making, whether through reliable scientific reports, transparent supply chain information, reputable third-party certification, or other forms of evidence. Where we have concerns, we will be asking businesses to substantiate their claims.

“The ACCC won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where we see that consumers are being misled or deceived by green claims.”

Rickard said making sustainability work for business and consumers requires a multi-pronged approach.

“Through the consumer law, the ACCC plays a part in this by ensuring that businesses tell the truth, but there will also be roles for standards bodies, certification schemes, industry and governments via policy reform. 

“The ACCC is actively monitoring green claims in the market and will be considering what steps can be taken to improve their integrity," Rickard said. This will include engaging with industry and producing guidance for businesses.”

“Many businesses go to extraordinary lengths to make their processes, products and services more sustainable. This innovation and investment should be protected from unscrupulous behaviour of other businesses making green claims without incurring the same costs. This can have a chilling effect on investment in this space, as businesses are not able to realise the full benefits of making environmental improvements.

accc logo upd“A business’s sustainability transition doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a long process up and down the supply chain. While businesses may look to use short and snappy slogans and claims, rather than lengthy explanations of measures underway, it is important to convey accurate information to consumers. Businesses in these positions need to be careful to not overstate the status of their transition through the claims they make.”