Are Too Many Businesses Claiming to Be Eco-Friendly?
Nov 16 2020
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced that they are concerned that a surge in demand for eco-friendly goods could prompt some businesses to paint themselves and their practices as greener than they actually are. As a result, the UK watchdog intends to vet brands which claim to be good for the environment in order to identify and penalise those who merely pay lip service to the idea.
Although no companies have been found guilty of such a breach of consumer trust as yet, the CMA said that the increasing amount of emphasis placed upon sustainable credentials when it came to consumer choice meant that there were opportunities for exploitation. As a result, they plan to step in in the role of independent watchdog and make sure that businesses were as good as their word.
The plight of the planet has made climate change and the environment more of a mainstream concern than ever before, and that is becoming reflected in consumer choices. Last year, Britons spent over £41 billion on ethically labelled products, including from the fashion, food, drinks, energy and travel industries. With so much business at stake, companies have understandably risen to meet the demand.
Nowadays, the multitude of products that are marked with an eco-friendly sticker or similar sustainable propaganda is unprecedented. Among other initiatives, firms are claiming to use recycled materials in the construction of their items, incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS) into their production methods and employ responsible business practices in the countries in which their operations are based, many of which are found in the developing world or among biodiverse areas.
Risk of “greenwashing”
What concerns the CMA is that companies might be claiming to have adopted environmentally responsible principles in their supply chain, but that those claims aren’t as yet being verified. That’s especially true for businesses who certify their own products, since these are not always independently checked and the criteria by which they are measured are not even public knowledge.
This practice of exaggerating environmental benefits of a product or service is known as “greenwashing” and it’s exactly that type of chicanery which the watchdog wants to cut down on. As part of their research, they plan to survey the British public, asking them questions on what type of measures they’d like to see being taken and how big a factor sustainability is in their final purchase decision.
Step in the right direction
While the CMA remains suspicious of the motives of some lesser scrupled companies, it is cautiously optimistic about the direction that the industry is heading as a whole. The digitalisation of businesses, for example, which can improve environmental health and safety performance, is an encouraging step in the right direction, but must be backed up by more concrete initiatives aimed at safeguarding the planet.
“We know that many businesses will be looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and we strongly support this, but the claims they make must not mislead consumers in the process,” explained Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA. “It’s important that people can easily choose between those who are doing the right thing for the environment and those who are not, so that businesses genuinely investing in going green can be properly rewarded by their customers.”
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