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June 28, 2024

What You Need to Know About the Green Claims Code and Greenwashing

Talking about sustainability can be hard, with so many pitfalls to avoid (hello greenwashing!). How do you know what you can and can’t claim? And who’s policing sustainability and green marketing claims to make sure they’re accurate?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) Green Claims Code and the upcoming European Green Claims Directive, what they mean for your business and what it means if you fall foul of the regulations. 

What is the Green Claims Code?

The Green Claims Code, spearheaded by the CMA, is a regulatory framework that ensures companies trading in the UK make accurate and verifiable environmental claims about their products and services. In essence, the CMA is trying to combat greenwashing - a practice where companies exaggerate or falsify their environmental benefits to appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

Transparency and Accuracy 

The directive states that all environmental claims must be clear, truthful and substantiated with credible evidence. Businesses must:

  • Provide Clear Information: Any green claim should be easy to understand, avoiding vague terms like “eco-friendly” or “natural” unless they can be specifically defined and proven.
  • Substantiate Claims: Every environmental benefit claimed must be backed by scientific evidence. 
  • Be Transparent: Businesses must be upfront about the environmental impact of their products, including both positive and negative aspects.

Enhancing Consumer Trust

Sticking to these guidelines will help businesses build greater trust with consumers. Transparent and accurate claims not only comply with regulations but also enhance brand reputation and customer loyalty.

Actual Punishments for Non-Compliance

This isn’t a wishy-washy series of demands with no consequences. Non-compliance with the CMA’s Green Claims Code can lead to the following: 

  • Fines and Penalties: Businesses guilty of making false or misleading environmental claims can face substantial civil penalties, including being fined up to 10% of their annual turnover. 
  • Legal Action: There may be legal repercussions, including lawsuits and injunctions to stop the misleading advertising.
  • Reputational Damage: The exposure of greenwashing practices can severely damage a brand’s reputation, leading to a loss of consumer trust and market share. The CMA has already worked with ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda on ‘landmark changes’. 

For a detailed breakdown of potential penalties and case studies, visit the official CMA Green Claims Directive page here.

Sustainability Guidelines for Marketers

At One Nine Nine Marketing Agency, we know that crafting a clear, coherent and honest message is essential when marketing sustainability.

Here are some key sustainability guidelines to follow:

  1. Be Honest and Specific: Make clear, specific claims and avoid ambiguous language.
  2. Back up Claims with Evidence: Use data, research and certifications to support your claims.
  3. Be Balanced: Present a fair and considered view of your product’s environmental impact.
  4. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest regulations and best practices in sustainability marketing.

The European Green Claims Directive

The Green Claims Directive is part of the European Green Deal, a collection of policy initiatives by the European Commission to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

The Greens Claims Directive was approved in April 2024 and will require all green claims to be credible and trustworthy.

The Green Claims Directive aims to

  • make green claims reliable, comparable and verifiable across the EU.
  • protect consumers from greenwashing.
  • contribute to creating a circular and green EU economy by enabling consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
  • help establish a level playing field when it comes to the environmental performance of products.

Bearing in mind that an incredible 75% of products on the EU market include an implicit or explicit green claim, this is going to have huge ramifications. While the specifics are still being finalised, businesses should prepare for more rigorous requirements and enhanced enforcement measures.

Need Help With Your Sustainability Marketing?

If you’re struggling to understand or implement these guidelines, One Nine Nine is here to help. We work with a wide range of clients including KTC, Daabon and Axiom across a wide range of sustainability issues. Our team of experts specialises in sustainability marketing and can assist you in crafting genuine, compliant, and impactful green claims.

By staying informed and proactive, your business can not only avoid penalties but also position itself as a leader in sustainability. Let’s work together to make your green claims credible and compelling.

To find out more about how we can help your business with sustainability comms and marketing team at 01138444111 or email us at contact@oneninenine.agency today.

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