The CMA announced today that it will examine the accuracy of environmental (green) claims made about household essentials – such as food, drink, and toiletries – to make sure shoppers are not being misled.
This means the CMA is expanding its ongoing investigations into ‘greenwashing’, to ensure products and services that claim to be green or eco-friendly are being marketed to shoppers accurately.
The CMA’s review will examine a wide range of products known as ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ (FMCG). These are essential items used by people on a daily basis and repurchased regularly, such as food and drink, cleaning products, toiletries, and personal care items.
In 2021, the average household spent almost £70 a week on food and drink alone, and the FMCG sector as a whole is worth over £130 billion annually.
The CMA will investigate claims both online and in store, including on-pack, for compliance with UK consumer protection law (in particular, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008). It will review whether such claims are being made in line with its Green Claims Code.
The CMA suggests that it will consider the use of vague and broad eco-statements for example packaging or marketing a product as ‘sustainable’ or ‘better for the environment’ with no evidence; misleading claims about the use of recycled or natural materials in a product and how recyclable it is; and entire ranges being incorrectly branded as ‘sustainable’.
The CMA has hinted that it will be scrutinising companies both "big and small" (and everything in between) to see whether their environmental claims stack up. They say that "Now is a good time for businesses to review their practices and make sure they’re operating within the law."
How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. If the CMA uncovers evidence suggesting green claims could be unfounded, it will consider taking enforcement action using its formal powers – for example, opening an investigation into specific companies.
Still in vogue
In January 2022, the CMA turned its attention to the fashion sector, launching enforcement action against well-known fashion brands ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda in July last year. The CMA wrote to the 3 companies outlining its concerns. Those investigations are ongoing, and the fashion sector shouldn't relax just yet.
In its Annual Plan consultation 2023 to 2024, the CMA detailed its strategic priority to continue to take action to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy and promote environmental sustainability.
"These products are the essentials on everyone’s shopping lists: food and drink, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste, cleaning products. As more people than ever try to do their bit to help protect the environment, we’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem, especially at a time when the cost of living continues to rise." - Sarah Cardell, Chief Exec, CMA