It's not easy being green. Businesses must back up their words.
Calling it “organic”, “green” and “eco-friendly” isn’t enough, that’s greenwashing, and it’s against the law.
January 23, 2017 — OTTAWA, ON — Competition Bureau
The green wave is gaining momentum. Consumers want to do what’s right and they are increasingly conscious of the dramatic environmental consequences of their lifestyle. They are seeking greener, cleaner products and services, even if it means paying more.
Naturally, this represents a great opportunity for businesses. Ads, slogans, logos and packaging now often feature environmental statements such as “organic”, “eco-friendly”, “biodegradable” or “safe for the environment”.
If your business is one of those seeking to catch the curl, know that greenwashing, the practice of making false or misleading environmental ads or claims, is illegal. The Competition Act takes aim at environmental claims that are vague, non specific, incomplete, or irrelevant and that cannot be supported through verifiable test methods.
Before making environmental claims, businesses must make sure that the claims:
- Aren’t misleading or likely to result in misinterpretation
- Are accurate and specific: claims that broadly imply that a product is environmentally beneficial or benign must be accompanied by a statement that provides support.
- Are substantiated and verifiable: claims must be tested and all tests must be scientifically sound, conducted in good faith and documented.
- Are relevant: claims must be specific to a particular product, and used only in an appropriate context. Claims must also take into consideration all relevant aspects of the product’s whole life cycle.
- Don’t imply that the product is endorsed by a third-party organization when it isn’t
To avoid getting in trouble for greenwashing:
- Understand your legal responsibilities, read the Competition Bureau’s web page about environmental claims and greenwashing
- Use explanatory statements to accompany environmental claims
- Update environmental claims as further testing is done or new information becomes available
- Make accurate and easy to understand verification material publicly available
Businesses who would like more information about false or misleading advertisements should contact the Bureau's Information Centre at 1‑800‑348‑5358, or visit the Bureau's website to file an enquiry form.
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The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.
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