MPs call for end to meaningless green claimsProblem of 'greenwash' is growing, say MPs

23 March 2009

Making Greener Choices

Avoid excess packaging materials

A group of MPs has called for a new system of environmental labelling to prevent companies from making misleading claims about how green their products are.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) produced a report saying that the use of 'insubstantial or meaningless environmental claims' to promote products is a growing problem.

The EAC wants ministers to bring in a green labelling scheme to prevent the problem of 'greenwash' - where companies claims their products are greener than they actually are.

Making green choices

The MPS say a traffic-light or petal system, similar to those used in the food industry, would make it easier for consumers to make green choices.

The committee wants the labels to show how much 'embedded carbon' a product contains,to help meet the Government target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. The system would be monitored by a third party and would fight the confusing range of different labels currently used.

The MPS believe it would have the knock-on effect of encouraging businesses to be greener.

Green laws

The committee would prefer to see a voluntary approach to the green labelling scheme but calls on ministers to change the law if needs be.

Colin Challen, EAC member and Labour chairman of the environmental information sub-committee, said: 'The government has to act to deal with the problem of greenwash. Clear labels are needed to help consumers make informed choices, but for consumers to have confidence in them, environmental labels must be backed up by independent monitoring that is fully verified.'

Government updating green claims code

The government is currently updating its green claims code. A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: 'The government wants environmental labelling that gives consumers clear and reliable information, provides a level playing field for businesses and is robust and transparent.

'We are currently updating our Green Claims Code and producing more guidance to help manufacturers and retailers ensure the claims they make about their products' environmental credentials are reliable and factual.'

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