How green are your offerings? Know the rules

Florentina Stancu-Soare | Manager, Regulatory Affairs @ CMA

With more and more customers wanting to purchase products and services that are environmentally friendly, companies are promoting the green aspects of their offerings through ads, logos and packaging. To avoid regulatory risks, it is vital for marketers to be aware of the rules that govern advertising and competition in Canada.

In 2017, the Competition Bureau issued a notice reminding businesses that any environmental claims like “eco-friendly”, “organic” or “green” must comply with the federal Competition Act.

What does that mean for your business? For starters, here is the most important thing you need to know: It is illegal to make any false or misleading environmental claims. False “green” advertising, known as “greenwashing”, must not be taken lightly. Greenwashing can lead not only to monetary penalties imposed by the Competition Bureau or criminal prosecution in certain cases, but it can have long-lasting impacts on the reputation of your brand.

Prior to making any environmental claims, be sure that the claims:

  • Are not 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.
  • Do not imply that the product is endorsed by a third-party organization when it is not.

Through the CMA Code of Ethics, the 400+ members of the CMA commit to the highest standards of honesty, truth, accuracy, fairness and professionalism. This includes following the guidance provided by the Competition Bureau before making environmental claims. Communicating clearly and truthfully avoids the risk of losing consumer confidence.

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Tags: Competition Bureau, ethical marketing, consumer protection, advocacy, greenwashing, environment, false advertising, deceptive marketing, eco-friendly, transparency, trust