There has been a steadily increasing number of inquiries and complaints around 'green' marketing Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Commissioner, Mr John Martin, said today.*
"This trend is consistent with the growing trend for business to green market their goods and services," Mr Martin said. "Whether a business is promoting their 'green' motor vehicles, 'green' flights, or 'green' toilet paper the Trade Practices Act 1974 consumer protection provisions apply.
"In light of the growing number of complaints, the ACCC is taking a closer look at a number of the green claims that are being made at the moment, and all businesses need to ensure they are not misleading their customers with such claims.
"Many incorrectly believe green marketing refers solely to the promotion or advertising of products with environmental characteristics. Terms like phosphate free, recyclable, eco-friendly, ozone friendly and environmentally friendly are terms consumers have in the past associated with green marketing.
"Green marketing claims, in the broader concept are now being applied to consumer goods, industrial goods, services, corporate activities, government activities, and so on. If there is a green-edge to be found, it will be exploited. Consumers across the spectrum are becoming more concerned and aware about the natural environment and hence businesses marketing goods with environmental characteristics will have a competitive advantage over businesses that do not.
"Businesses have long since recognised there is a competitive advantage to be had by appealing to the new green awareness of customers, and the latest and trendiest green marketing claims are the 'carbon neutral', 'carbon offset' and 'carbon footprint' claims.
"To meet the demand of this current wave of green marketing claims a largely unregulated carbon-cutting business has sprung up selling 'offsets' which pay for projects elsewhere that neutralise an equal amount of emissions – planting trees or fertilising oceans. This trade is currently estimated around $US100 million and growing. Consumers can carbon neutralise their car, their flight and most recently their household but are these claims too good to be true and do they truly deliver what consumers expect them to?
"The ACCC intends to ramp-up its green compliance activities with a combination of business and consumer educative initiatives and targeted enforcement action."
*Mr Martin was addressing the ACCORD Conference 2007.