HomeEnvironment & ClimateAustralia Begins ‘Greenwashing’ Crackdown On Companies’ False Environmental Claims

Australia Begins ‘Greenwashing’ Crackdown On Companies’ False Environmental Claims

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, ACCC, has begun a crackdown on “greenwashing” by Australian companies, surveying the internet for companies making false claims about environmental action after a global investigation found as many as 40% may be fraudulent.

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, chair of the agency told a House of Representative hearing on Tuesday that “increasingly large proportions of consumers” were making decisions based on products’ sustainability credentials.

“We do not want to see a loss of consumer and community trust in these claims because it is a critical part of the purchasing decisions of consumers,” she said, adding “we get an unfair competitive situation” if firms falsely make claims about achieving net zero carbon emissions or other environmental standards.

Ensuring claims are truthful will be an enforcement priority for the ACCC this year, and an enduring one, Cass-Gottlieb said, adding international estimates from consumer protection groups put the level of false environmental claims at 40%.

Staff have begun “a significant body of work here”, including a sweep of the internet starting last week to identify claims that “set off alarm bells for us”, she said.

The ACCC is also planning to lay down guidelines so that companies only make statements about their products that are “clear, defined, limited in their claims, and always have strong verification materials”, Cass-Gottlieb said. “Scientific and rigorous processes” would need to be behind those claims.

Scrutiny of the companies’ climate credentials, including the validity of Australian carbon credit units (Accus), is likely to intensify in the coming months.

The Albanese government has launched an independent review of the credits and the Clean Energy Regulator that will report by the year’s end. On Monday, it also released draft regulation that will open up a new type of credits linked to reductions of carbon emissions by industrial facilities covered by the so-called safeguard mechanism.

Jerome Laxale, Labor MP for Bennelong, welcomed the ACCC’s plans to clamp down on greenwashing.

“It’s a huge indicator of what tough work our regulators need to do to ensure that 40% of net zero claims here in Australia are not fraudulent,” Laxale told Guardian Australia.

“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Laxale said. “It’s great to start this year, but it also would have been better if they had started earlier.”

“I want to ensure that when a company claims that they are net zero that either, A, they are actually reducing their emissions, or B, that the offsets that they purchase are legitimate and not junk,” he said.

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