What consumers need to know about 'greenwashing'
WHAT IS GREENWASHING?
When a company or organisation misrepresents the extent to which their practices are environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical.
HOW DOES GREENWASHING HAPPEN?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says companies are increasingly using environmental claims in an attempt to differentiate themselves and their products from rivals.
The claims come in a number of different forms, including marketing and online statements about environmental sustainability, recycling or the impact on animals and the environment.
Companies are using such claims for a variety of products, from small household items like nappies and toilet paper to major whitegoods and appliances.
Superannuation firms are also making claims on where their funds are allocated, with many emphasising investments in renewable energy rather than coal and gas.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO COMBAT GREENWASHING?
The ACCC in October launched two internet sweeps to identify misleading environmental and sustainability marketing claims.
At least 200 company websites were reviewed across a range of sectors including energy, vehicles, cosmetics and clothing.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is also focusing on greenwashing in its 2023 enforcement priorities.
AUSTRALIAN COMPANIES ACCUSED OF GREENWASHING:
* February 2023: ASIC launches civil proceedings against superannuation giant Mercer, alleging the company made false and misleading statements about the sustainable nature of some of its investment options.
* January 2023: Black Mountain Energy pays $39,960 to comply with three infringement notices issued by ASIC. The watchdog alleges the company made false or misleading sustainability-related statements to the stock exchange between December 2021 and September 2022.
* December 2022: Investment firm Vanguard Australia is fined a total of $39,960, with ASIC alleging it might have misled the public by overstating claims it did not invest in companies involved in significant tobacco sales.
* December 2022: ASIC issues an infringement notice to superannuation trustee Diversa Trustees Limited over allegations it might have made false or misleading statements. Diversa pays $13,320 in compliance with the notices.
* October 2022: Energy company Tlou Energy is fined $53,280 for false or misleading sustainability-related statements made to the Australian stock exchange in 2021.
* August 2022: The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility launches proceedings against Santos, claiming the oil and gas company engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct over clean energy claims in its 2020 annual report.