‘Greenwashing’ is rampant in online stores, consumer authorities find

Green

Many of the “green” claims on companies’ websites are exaggerated, false and potentially illegal, according to a study of online shops and traders by the European Union and national consumer protection authorities.

As consumers demand more sustainable goods, the number of environmental claims made by companies is rising — and with it, “greenwashing”, where companies exaggerate their environmental credentials to win over shoppers.

Looking into “green” claims, mostly by online stores and also some traders’ sites in November 2020, the European Commission and federal authorities found the problem was rife.

The study assessed 344 “seemingly dubious” sustainability claims made online by companies in sectors including clothing, cosmetics, household equipment and travel services.

In 42% of cases, federal authorities had reason to think that the claim was untrue, deceptive, and possibly an unfair commercial practice under EU law.

Typically the trader failed to offer consumers enough information to estimate the claim’s precision, while 37% of instances used vague terms without substantiating them.

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“Terms such as ecological, organic, and environmentally friendly were used frequently and without substantiation,” that the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) said. ACM can fine businesses that produce false or misleading sustainability asserts, it said.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said that while some companies strive to generate eco-friendly goods, “there are also unscrupulous traders out there, who pull the wool over consumers’ eyes with vague, false or exaggerated claims.”

The Commission didn’t name the companies that it screened. It said national authorities will raise any concerns and ensure they are fixed.

The findings may also notify upcoming EU laws, due to be proposed this year, which could include compulsory minimum requirements for sustainability logos and requirements for companies to give information on a product’s environmental credentials, to help stamp out greenwashing.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Kate Abnett. Editing by Marine Strauss and Elaine Hardcastle.

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