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.

5 thoughts on “Canada’s competition police crack down on greenwashing”

  1. Finally! I hate stuff like “Transfat free!” labels when there WAS NEVER ANY TRANSFAT IN THAT PRODUCT TO BEGIN WITH! It’s not only extremely annoying, it’s misleading.
    Now I want them to crack down on Homoeopathic medicine, Chiropractors (who give you a painful massage, then claim they are “rearranging energy” in your body. Riiiiight. They also claim that germ theory is wrong. Hehehehehehe. Idiots. So viruses don’t make me sick, huh?), and things like “anti-ageing” cosmetics. All outright lies, but they get away with it because no one bothers to police false advertising claims.

  2. It’s great to hear the Competition Bureau is getting after this. We all know false advertising claims are a pervasive issue, particularly in consumer goods, but I was shocked to see the scale. TerraChoice conducted a study of bixbox retailers and found that of 1,018 products examined (bearing 1,753 environmental claims) “all but one made claims that are demonstrably false or that risk misleading intended audiences”. Check it out (.pdf on left side of page): The Six Sins of Greenwashing

  3. Thank goodness. I was just thinking about this the other day when I drove by a “Smart Center” shopping outlet that was touting its greeny-ness on large signage out front.
    WHAT!?
    Since when did a bunch of box stores and a giant parking lot ever become green? I don’t care what kind of insulation or CFL’s they switched to. They still promote car culture and the retailers have a gigantic carbon footprint, as they ship all the product from China.
    Let’s see some changes to all of this Greenwashing.

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