ACCC Greenwashing Crackdown: Our Recommendations

by Sustainable Choice Group 02/03/2023

A Sustainability Journey, Thought Starters

The ACCC have recently performed a sweep of online claims made by businesses and found that 57% had misleading claims about environmental credentials. 

In our latest EDM, to help combat the risk of greenwashing we announced an audit of all site content, and passed ACCC recommendations on to our members.

Ambiguous, Broad or Incorrect Terminology Usage

When making a claim, avoid broad phrases like:

  • Some
  • As much as we can
  • Where possible
  • A range of
  • Most
  • We believe
  • Various
  • Aren’t suspected to

The ACCC ‘Red Flag’ terms:

This statement is very vague, and conveys little information to the consumer—other than the message that your product is in some way less damaging to the environment than others. Avoid as this term as it invites consumers to give a wide range of meanings to the claim.

‘Environmentally friendly’ or ‘environmentally safe’
These claims are also vague and could potentially mislead consumers into thinking that the product causes no harm to the environment in its production, usage and disposal. Few, if any, products could make this claim. Avoid unless specifying exactly which aspect of the product it applies to.

‘Energy efficient’
Energy efficiency claims should be quantified by comparison to existing benchmarks or rating systems, or otherwise explained in more detail. Simply claiming that a product is ‘energy efficient’ makes it difficult for consumers to compare products.

These claims can be potentially dangerous if the product is not recyclable, or if the facilities to recycle it are not available in Australia. You should verify that the product can actually be recycled, and let consumers know where and how with our disposals tool.

‘Renewable’ or ‘green’ energy
Be careful when advertising renewable or green energy that any representations made about cost, amounts supplied or the associated benefits are accurate and can be substantiated.

‘Zero Waste’
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to eliminate toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Make sure you are detailing specifically which aspects of your product or service is in line with Zero Waste principles.

‘Carbon neutral’
Any claims you make about carbon neutrality should be factually based, not overstated, and in line with recognised reporting standards (like the Greenhouse Gas Protocol). You should also consider the entire lifecycle of a product when making claims about carbon neutrality. For example, claiming that your product is carbon neutral if it only applies to the manufacturing process may risk misleading consumers.

We are currently testing a new emissions tracking module to support carbon claims and are making sure that it meets these requirements before release.

How to Substantiate Your Claims

As you’ve just seen, staying in line with the accepted definitions of the terms above usually involves an assessment, certification or accreditation. The best way to ensure that claims are substantiated is to directly attach any supporting documents, and specify the relevant product lifecycle categories. 

The documents library will also notify when a certificate is due for renewal, and lets you easily swap outdated content attached to multiple actions or products. 

Irrelevant Claims 

Avoid making claims that are technically true but irrelevant or unimportant to the environment, such as “no CFCs” in products that never contained them in the first place.

Remember, it is the overall impression that counts. A claim of ‘now 50 per cent more recycled content’ is of no real benefit if a product was only 1 per cent recycled content in the first place. 

The ACCC Checklist is built to align with the ACCC guidelines, and we’re here to help our members make the most out of the tools we provide. We have updates on the way which will make it even easier to keep sustainable progress on public record – so stay tuned! 

The world of sustainability is always changing. The information we’ve provided is based on what was current when we published it. So, please make sure to check the latest standards and guidelines.

by Sustainable Choice Group