9 November 2021

We all want to make a difference to climate change.

For many of us, that difference comes from the daily choices we make. Which brands we support. Which products we buy.

But what if we’re being misled?

A focus on green has become a key theme in marketing and advertising over the last few years. Every brand wants to play their part. Green isn’t just trending, it’s an opportunity to build more human connections and express their compassionate side. And no brand wants the attention of the green protest movement, camping outside their head office.

But in a push for more greener messaging, some brands could be accused, in some instances, of not being 100% truthful. This isn’t strictly their fault, and is more a problem caused by the muddy interpretation of consumer protection laws and the environment.

This muddiness should be cleared up now that the Government has published its guidance for businesses making environmental claims.

Let’s look at the key points.

1. Claims must be truthful and accurate

2. Claims must be clear and unambiguous

3. Claims must not omit or hide important relevant information

4. Comparisons must be fair and meaningful

5. Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service

6. Claims must be substantiated

The biggest of these claims and the mostly likely to trip brands up is probably no.5.

A brand claiming to have cut a product’s carbon emissions by 33%, will now have to take into account the full life cycle of that product — everything that happens from creation to disposal.

If the company were to claim a 33% lower carbon impact, even with small print that reads ‘excluding transportation’, they would still be called out for being misleading.

This is because in the life cycle of the product, the emissions generated by its manufacture are likely small when compared to the emissions generated from its transportation.

Furthermore, a brand making a broad claim as to being ‘The Greener Choice’ might be guilty of misleading, if they are focusing on a small part of their business which they’ve made greener, whilst omitting a larger, less-green part that doesn’t give consumers the full picture.

It’s worth stating that there’s no real shift in the law here, just a clearing up of existing rules, that will make it easier for bodies like the ASA to take action where needed.

This extra scrutiny means more than ever it’s important for brands to have the evidence ready to back up any green claims they make.

If the advice is acted on appropriately, it’s bound to end the wild west of green claims that’s become rampant in our climate focused world.

It’ll make the jobs of marketers, advertisers and packaging designers that bit harder, favouring precision over what can sometimes be lazy, haphazard greenwashing.

It’ll encourage brands to take a deeper look inwards, to better understand their processes and environmental impact.

But it’ll also help level the playing field and empower the small brands who are genuinely making a difference.

And, importantly, it’ll help restore consumer confidence that when a brand says it’s green – it really is.

Get up to speed on the full CMA advice here .

Written by Alex Hamilton.