Sustainability plays a pivotal role in the decision-making process of today’s consumers. They tend to opt for products with labels such as ‘recycled’, ‘organic’, ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’. In recent years this trend has triggered the marketing and PR strategy of ‘greenwashing’.
‘Greenwashing’ means the activity of a company by which it gives the impression that its product, the packaging or the manufacturing process of the product is environmentally friendly and contributes to environmental protection, while there is actually in fact no effort made on the part of the company to achieve such results.
In 2020, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) carried out a sweep relating to green online claims from various business sectors, such as cosmetics, garments and household equipment. The Commission and the consumer authorities examined more than 344 cases.
The sweep has shown that in 42% of the cases, the claims were false or deceptive. In more than half of the examined claims the customers were not provided with sufficient information to judge the claim’s accuracy, while in 37% of the cases the claim included ambiguous statements that suggested that the product had no negative impact on the environment.
The sweep has also revealed 7 advertisements that falsely claimed the support or approval of environmental certification bodies.
By publishing guidelines, consumer authorities may help companies to avoid unintentional ‘greenwashing’. The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has already issued guidance in which it differentiates between typical green claims – e.g. ‘recyclable’; ‘organic’; ‘free from’ -gives an insight into the use of certification labels and provides a checklist to ensure compliance with the recommendations.
Apart from their informative and supportive role, the HCA’s guidance can also outline the possible assessment criteria for the evaluation of misleading commercial practices under the relevant legislation. We will summarize the main points of the HCA’s relevant guidance in our next piece which you can expect within 2 weeks.