If you’re looking to Green your organisation and reduce or offset your carbon footprint, be sure you do your homework. Making false Green claims is a topical issue of late, with many manufacturers over-utilising ‘Green’ terminology or utilising ‘Green’ symbology in an attempt to get the Customer’s attention. The ACCC has recently come down hard on organisations making false or misleading ‘Green’ claims. So when do you know if you’re crossing the all important legal line?
The ACCC‘s objectives are linked with the core principles of the Trade Practices Act – that any claims in marketing and advertising must not mislead or deceive the customer. Therefore, in essence, ‘Green’ claims need to be as accurate as possible. There are a few guidelines that the ACCC has set out in their document ‘Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act’, which I have summarised (very briefly – please don’t rely on these as the be-all-and-end-all) below:
Claims must be accurate
Claims should be able to be substantiated
Claims should be specific, not unqualified or general
Claims should be in plain language
Claims should only be made for a real benefit
Claims must not overstate a benefit
Pictures can also be representations
Claims should make it clear whether claimed benefits refer to packaging
Claims should consider the whole product life cycle
Claims using endorsement of certification should be used with caution
Claims should not overstate the level of scientific acceptance
As you can see – the ACCC is only providing guidelines or assistance, but the ultimate decision you need to ask is – will this mislead my customers? Personally, I believe many companies need to be asking this of themselves more often, and not just in relation to ‘Green Claims’. These days with technology as instant as it is, one wrong move can be across Australia in a flash. Take, for example, Ribena and the Vitamin C content debacle. A few school kids and a story on a popular current affairs program was all it took – now their brand will take years to recover. Don’t let your company become a case study in a marketing law textbook – do your legal homework!