“Where we have concerns, we will be asking businesses to substantiate their claims,” Lowe said.
“Already, we have several active investigations underway across the packaging, consumer goods, food manufacturing and medical devices sectors for alleged misleading environmental claims and these may grow, as we continue to conduct more targeted assessments into businesses and claims identified through the sweep.”
‘Our sweep indicates a significant proportion of businesses are making vague or unclear environmental claims.’
ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe
The ACCC will also update its guidance materials to try to further educate businesses.
The most common issue identified in the sweep was the high proportion of vague and unqualified claims. Many businesses made environmental and sustainability claims without providing any evidence to back them up.
The ACCC report said many businesses used vague terms like “green”, “kind to the planet”, “eco-friendly”, “responsible” or “sustainable” to describe their products. The ACCC said these claims had little value for consumers as they could have a variety of different meanings and rarely provided enough information to allow consumers to make an informed purchasing decision.
Some businesses made claims that their products were made using “sustainable” materials, without any further information about which materials were used, and why they were more sustainable.
Comments about packaging containing recycled plastic were also found to be confusing as they provided no information about the proportion used.
The ACCC was also concerned that many absolute claims, including that products were 100 per cent plastic free or 100 per cent recyclable and made with zero emissions, had the potential to be misleading.
“The sweep has helped inform our forthcoming guidance about what steps businesses need to take to improve the integrity of their environmental claims,” Lowe said.
“We want to see businesses taking steps to ensure that environmental claims are accurate as well as meaningful for consumers. Our sweep has shown that claims are most useful where they are relevant, clear, reliable and transparent.
“We will engage directly with businesses and industry associations to improve compliance with the Australian Consumer Law.”
Lowe encouraged businesses to come forward if they become aware they have made false or misleading marketing claims. She said businesses who cooperated and advised the ACCC of any issues with their operations would be considered more favourably than those who waited for it to unearth these problems.
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