Hey, it’s me banging on about eco stuff again. Hey ho. 

This time I bring you, not the green cross code but the green claims code.

The green claims code is actually brought to you by the CMA, (The Competition and Markets Authority), the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. The CMA’s objective is to make markets work well for consumers, businesses and the broader economy.

The Green Claims Code is very useful. Read it. Bookmark it. You can’t mess about with this stuff.

The purpose of this guidance is to help businesses understand and comply with their existing obligations under consumer protection law when making environmental claims. We hope it will give confidence to those businesses whose products are genuinely ‘green’ to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions.”

The principles are:

claims must be truthful and accurate

claims must be clear and unambiguous

claims must not omit or hide important relevant information

comparisons must be fair and meaningful

claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service

claims must be substantiated

You can find the summary here and it’s a useful primer, and I really like the direct tone (and northern accent) in the accompanying video on the page.

I do recommend reading the full guidance (56 pages) though as well. Here you’ll find “Terms like ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco-friendly,’ especially if used without explanation, are likely to be seen as suggesting that a product, service, process, brand or business as a whole has a positive environmental impact, or at least no adverse impact. Unless a business can prove that, it risks falling short of its legal obligations.”

There are some cracking illustrative examples throughout the document, including “A disposable cup is marked as ‘compostable’. No further information is provided. The cup will not compost in a home compost bin. An industrial composter is required, so consumers can only compost the cup if their local authority collects compostable waste for industrial composting. The claim is likely to be misleading as it does not specify the circumstances under which the product is compostable and the action the consumer needs to take.”

Much is said about the use of language and not bamboozling people – “Businesses should use words and phrases in line with their ordinary meaning and the way consumers are likely to understand them. Scientific or technical language should be avoided unless it is easily understood by the average consumer”.

And on advertising puff…“Some advertising claims can be purely subjective or hyperbole. In those cases, consumers may recognise them as such or treat them as advertising ‘puff’ that they do not take literally. Consumers are unlikely to expect those claims to be based on particular evidence. The claims businesses commonly make about environmental impacts are likely to be different. They are likely to relate to ascertainable matters that can be assessed against the scientific or other evidence. Businesses should therefore be able to back up their claims.”

The green code is full of gold.

Read it. Bookmark it. And do check out previous blogs on this subject using the search function to the right.