Making environmental claims

Businesses wishing to use environmental claims in their marketing strategy need to make sure their claims are honest, accurate and can be substantiated.

Many customers will use environmental claims as a factor when evaluating a product. To avoid misleading or deceiving a customer, claims need to be scientifically sound and explicitly identify and convey any ‘green’ characteristics.

Special care must be taken when formulating ‘green’ claims to ensure your business is providing customers with a truthful overall impression of your products. Businesses must comply with the Australian Consumer Law to ensure environmental claims are not false or misleading representations.

Here are some principles to consider:

Claims must be accurate

Any claim made must be accurate and not mislead customers in any way. You must be able to substantiate any claim made, for example, what scientific authority can justify the basis of your claim.

Be specific

Broad or unqualified statements can mislead customers as the audience can draw many meanings. A claim needs to be specific in how it links to a part of a product or its production process, such as packaging, manufacture or transportation.

Avoid using vague claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “safe”, “green”, “energy efficient”, “recyclable”, “carbon neutral” or “renewable” as they can be misrepresented and mislead customers into drawing incorrect conclusions.

Use plain language

Avoid using technical terms or jargon that may confuse the customer. The customer needs to be able to understand what exactly is beneficial about a product so assumptions are not made.

Claims must have genuine benefit

Environmental claims must provide a real benefit and should only be applied where they are relevant. Be aware that claims can lose relevance over time, therefore, they might not be appropriate to use as they can mislead customers. Claims must also not overstate the benefit or level of scientific acceptance.

Use an appropriate context

When making claims ensure they are used in an appropriate setting. For example, do not claim that a product is not tested on animals if it was never tested on animals to begin with.

Use endorsement with caution

When using logos, certifications of your product or environmental schemes provide customers with further details of the scheme to prevent misleading impressions.

Be wary with images

If your business uses pictures associated with the environment, such as the earth or forests, customers can infer environmental benefits. To reduce misrepresentation use symbols and images with caution.

Cristy Houghton