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Consumers are increasingly demanding products and services which minimise harm to, or have a positive effect on, the environment. As a result, there has been a proliferation of products, services and businesses which claim to meet that demand.
Consumer protection law does not prevent businesses from making environmental claims about their products and services, provided they do not mislead consumers. It provides a framework for businesses to make environmental claims that help consumers make informed choices. Consumer protection law therefore gives consumers important protection in relation to environmental claims.
In protecting consumers from misleading environmental claims, consumer protection law also protects businesses from unfair competition. It creates a level playing field for those businesses whose products genuinely represent a better choice for the environment and who can make truthful environmental claims. In addition, there is separate legislation which directly protects businesses from misleading marketing.
The law also therefore has the effect of encouraging businesses to invest in the environmental performance of their products. It enables businesses to communicate these genuine efforts to consumers transparently and to reap the commercial benefits.
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 guidance sets out principles which are designed to help businesses comply with the law. It explains each of these principles. It gives examples of how each of them applies and more detailed case studies where multiple principles apply. The guidance also sets out the legal framework on which these principles are based.
The principles are: