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UK competition authority to investigate greenwashing and misleading labels

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

4 Nov 2020


The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to investigate descriptions and labels used to promote products and services claiming to be ‘eco-friendly’, and whether they could mislead consumers.

Greenwashing, or ‘green sheen’, is when a company uses misleading or false claims to suggest it’s doing more for the environment than it actually is.

UK spending on ethical products increased four-fold

In 2019, UK consumers spent 41 billion pounds a year on ethical goods and services – almost 4 times as much as people spent two decades ago.

This new investigation is a response to the growing number of products and services being marketed as environmentally friendly, as awareness of environmental issues increases.

Based on its own research and evidence from other enforcers, the CMA is concerned that this surge in demand for green products and services could incentivise some businesses to make misleading, vague or false claims about the sustainability or environmental impact of the things they sell.

As part of its work, the CMA will also consider whether failing to provide all relevant information about the sustainability of a product or service – for example, whether it’s highly polluting or non-recyclable – could mislead consumers and therefore break consumer law.

The CMA is looking across a wide range of sectors, although it is likely to focus on those industries where consumers appear most concerned about misleading claims, including textiles, fashion and beauty products.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: Increasing numbers of people are quite rightly concerned about the environment and want to play their part by being greener. Our role is to make sure that consumers can trust the claims they see on products for sale and don’t fork out extra for items falsely presented as eco-friendly.

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