ACCC releases draft guidelines to combat greenwashing

21 July 2023

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb and Melina Morrison

With new draft guidelines for environmental reporting from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released earlier this month, businesses will now be compelled to back-up environmental and sustainability claims with hard evidence.

The draft guidelines follow the March release of ACCCs findings of its internet sweep on environmental claims. The results found that 57 per cent of businesses across areas as diverse as energy, cosmetics and personal care, and electronics and home appliances were making potentially misleading environmental claims.

Key concerns included businesses using vague or unclear claims, not using sufficient evidence for their claims, setting environmental goals without clear plans for achieving them and using third-party certifications and symbols in a confusing way.

“As community-owned organisations that form to meet the common economic and social needs of a group of people or businesses, co-ops and mutuals place the veracity of environmental and sustainability claims at the forefront of their agenda,” said BCCM CEO Melina Morrison.

She added, “The goals of the ACCC align with those of the CME sector, which by its very nature is designed with consumer interests at heart. The BCCM welcomes the additional consumer protection that the new draft guidelines bring and will continue working with its members on implementing robust and actionable environmental and sustainability strategies.”

The draft ACCC guidance lists eight principles businesses must apply when making environmental claims. Consultation for the draft guidance closes on 15 September 2023.

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb spoke to BCCM members about the upcoming guidelines at the 2023 BCCM CEO Summit in June. “The transition to net zero is creating markets that didn’t exist a decade ago. The ACCC will be closely monitoring for anti-competitive conduct as the green transition continues to unfold. Our objective is that emerging markets are set up from the outset to function with integrity and in a pro-competitive, pro-consumer manner.”

She told delegates, “CMEs play an important role in all markets. You are innovators and often the first responders to changes in consumer behaviour. This is particularly relevant in relation to ESG issues. Many CMEs are directly responding to changes in consumer demand and behaviour by changing how and what you do. Initiatives like the various projects that the BCCM is undertaking to address ESG are important steps that business can take to address and respond to the challenges we are facing. We welcome these projects and the ESG initiatives being undertaken by you and by CMEs across our economy.”

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