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Stopping greenwashing, not green innovations

Matthew Lees action LORES

In a comment article published in today’s edition of The Australian, partner Matthew Lees warns that new draft guidelines released by the ACCC foreshadow a tough approach towards false or misleading claims about the environmental credentials of Australian businesses.

“While greenwashing is undoubtedly a serious issue, and the ACCC has a valuable role to play in ensuring consumers are not misled, common sense should dictate whether an advertisement constitutes greenwashing or not,” Matthew writes. “Otherwise, businesses may well decide not to promote their environmental credentials or, worse, they won’t innovate eco-friendly products and processes in the first place.”

Matthew argues that the ACCC’s approach to policing this emerging area in our market economy needs to be sensitive to these issues, as well as real world practicalities, to avoid creating an unnecessary burden on businesses that are developing and promoting new, cleaner products.

To illustrate the point, he cites a range of examples included in the guidelines, including:

  • The ACCC suggests businesses should use a website or QR code to provide a detailed explanation of how their product, service or business approach achieves the environmental benefits claimed. However, they should avoid using scientific concepts or technical terms that consumers may not understand.
  • Calling a product “recyclable” or “compostable” may be problematic if the required recycling or composting facilities are not available in all locations where the product is sold.
  • An electric car can be marketed as achieving “zero exhaust emissions while driving”, rather than simply “zero emissions”, due to emissions created in its manufacture.

“Addressing environmental challenges is a shared responsibility of businesses, consumers and governments. With the consultation process underway for the new guidelines, let’s hope that calling out the greenwashers won’t be pursued at the expense of encouraging businesses to be part of the solution.”

To read the full article, click here.

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