Canada’s competition police crack down on greenwashing

Canada’s Competition Bureau, the federal body that polices anti-competitive behaviour and misleading advertising, is expanding its mission to the world of greenwashing. The agency is reportedly getting ready to crack down on companies that make “green” product and service claims that aren’t backed up by the facts. It’s also releasing industry guidelines that were developed alongside the Canadian Standards Association. The guidelines will define what can be called “recyclable” and will require that any green claim made by a company be backed up with hard data. According to the Globe and Mail, “Under the new guidelines, companies won’t be allowed to make vague or non-specific claims about their products. They’ll also be restricted from calling a product as ‘free’ of a particular chemical or compound if that substance was never used in the first place.”

This could prove a valuable exercise for consumers, which want assurances they’re not being misled by marketing spin. Many companies have jumped on the green bandwagon by simply repurposing existing product so they appear as “green.” There was bound to be a backlash, as I pointed out in my beginning-of-the-year predictions for 2008. It’s unclear how the Competition Bureau will go about enforcing these rules, but it will certainly inject a bit of “green chill” during brainstorming sessions at advertising and marketing firms.