Environmental and organic claims
If you wish to make environmental claims about your business or your product, they should be honest, accurate and able to be substantiated. You should clearly explain, in simple language, the significance of the benefit to the environment.
Real case study: A whitegoods manufacturer provided a court enforceable undertaking following concerns that it may have misrepresented the energy savings of certain of its washing machines compared with conventional washing machines.
Related s.87B undertaking: 2013 s.87B undertaking
Media release: Whitegoods manufacturer provides ACCC with undertaking over energy savings claims
Terms such as ‘green’, ‘environmentally safe’ and ‘fully recycled’ are broad terms that may have more than one meaning. For example, the statement ‘safe for the environment’ could have many meanings depending on the audience—some may believe this means your product is biodegradable or others may infer that it contains non-toxic ingredients. If a consumer’s understanding, inferred from the terms used, conflicts with the facts then they may be misled. To avoid misleading consumers, make sure that you explicitly identify and accurately convey any ‘green’ attributes.
Related publication: Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law
Real case study: A manufacturer of plastic bags heavily promoted their bags as biodegradable and therefore environmentally friendly. However, the company could not substantiate these claims.
The ACCC took action against the company and the court declared that it had engaged in false or misleading conduct, misrepresented the benefits and performance characteristics of the bags and misled the public on the nature and characteristics of the bags.
Case law: Federal Court of Australia, South Australia Registry - SAD92/2010
Media release: Misleading conduct in relation to plastic bags
Related publication: News for business – Biodegradable, degradable and recyclable claims on plastic bags
An organic claim is any claim that describes a product, or the ingredients used to make the product, as ‘organic’. For example, product labels or marketing materials may claim a product is ‘100% organic’, ‘made using organic ingredients’ or ‘certified organic’. The word ‘organic’ in the context of food and drink refers to agricultural products that have been farmed according to certain practices.
Consumers cannot easily verify for themselves whether a product is organic and should be able to trust that any ‘organic’ claim is accurate. While organic certification is not legally required for a product supplied in Australia to be described as organic, businesses must be able to substantiate any such claims.
The ACL is complemented by a set of voluntary industry standards, which are developed and reviewed by Standards Australia.
There are several Australian standards that relate to organic or biodynamic claims. For example, the Australian Standard (AS) 6000–2015 Organic and biodynamic products is a voluntary standard which sets out the requirements to be met by growers and manufacturers wishing to label their products as ‘organic’ and/or ‘biodynamic’ within Australia. As it is a voluntary standard, businesses do not necessarily have to meet the requirements of this standard in order to label and sell their products as ‘organic’ within Australia.
However, if using the AS 6000–2015 Organic and biodynamic products label, your produce or product must meet requirements outlined in the standard.
For further information, visit the Standards Australia website (www.standards.org.au).
Real case study: An egg packer and supplier was found to have substituted and sold non-organically produced eggs as organic eggs over a two year period. This was a breach of the ACL.
Real case study: The ACCC negotiated with seven suppliers of bottled water to remove ‘organic’ claims from labelling and marketing material.
Organic standards acknowledge that water cannot be organic so any claim that water is organic would therefore be false or misleading.
Media release: ACCC negotiates removal of misleading ‘organic’ water claims
Related information: Organic claims