On July 14 the ACCC released draft guidelines about sustainability claims after an internet sweep found 57 per cent of reviewed businesses were greenwashing.
Concerning practices identified ranged from businesses overstating their climate action to companies developing their own certification schemes.
“As consumers become more environmentally conscious, businesses need to be honest and transparent when making environmental or sustainability claims so consumers are not being misled,” said ACCC chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
The ACCC has proposed eight guiding principles for businesses sharing their sustainability goals and actions, including making accurate and truthful claims that do not exaggerate, having evidence to back up claims and being open about objectives.
Sustainable Choice Group founder and CEO Kiarne Treacy said she is not at all surprised that the consumer watchdog has issued the advice to businesses. “We’ve been waiting for this move for a while now,” she said.
“Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue to Australians and people want to see real action being taken.
“Businesses can no longer just say they are working to be environmentally conscious – they need to show it.
“With so many businesses found to be ‘greenwashing’ and misleading consumers with their claims, it’s more important than ever that those who are selling sustainability as a benefit are clearly outlining the steps they are taking.
“SustainabilityTracker.com is a web platform for businesses to maintain a public record of their social and environmental actions with supportive evidence. Consumers want to see the proof.”
SustainabilityTracker.com is an online hub that collates the sustainability commitments of hundreds of reputable brands to empower consumers to make informed choices about their purchases. Businesses who have signed on to the platform can publish up-to-date accreditations, certificates, audits and full product life cycle breakdowns. Businesses already on the platform include Volvo, Who Gives A Crap, John West and Snooze.
For example, consumers can easily view Volvo’s sustainability actions and commitments at SustainabilityTracker.com, including the company’s carbon footprint report, its ISO certification and its detailed plan to only be selling electric cars by 2030.
“We know consumers want to vote with their wallet,” said Kiarne.
“What they don’t want however, is to have to go trawling through websites to make sense of a green leaf on a label.
“Just like we use realestate.com.au to search properties, or SEEK for jobs, SustainabilityTracker.com is the digital destination for sustainability information.”