The guidelines help traders understand their obligations when making environmental claims, including how to avoid breaching the Fair Trading Act.

An environmental claim is a representation about the environmental impact of a good or service – sometimes referred to as ‘green claims’. Examples of these claims include statements made about recycling, biodegradability, and the use of recycled content or natural products.

Consumers are increasingly considering the environment when buying goods and services and can be easily misled. They may be prepared to pay a price premium for a good or service that gives the impression that it benefits the environment, or has a lesser impact on the environment, than an alternative good or service.

“When making purchasing decisions based on environmental claims, consumers trust that these claims are reliable and accurate. Often consumers are unable to access the kind of technical information they would need to second-guess claims,” says Commission Chair Anna Rawlings.

“Environmental claims can be a powerful marketing tool and traders are using environmental claims as a point of difference from their competitors. All traders, large and small, need to make sure their environmental claims are substantiated, truthful, and not misleading to avoid breaching the Fair Trading Act,” says Ms Rawlings.

Since 1 July 2017, we have received 94 complaints about environmental claims that relate to the Fair Trading Act. The complaints are typically to do with allegations that claims about a product or service cannot be substantiated and/or that the performance characteristics of a product or service are false or misleading.

The Environmental Claims Guidelines cover general principles and include examples of cases taken by the Commission in the past. The guidelines remind traders to:

  • be truthful
  • be accurate
  • be specific
  • substantiate claims
  • use plain language
  • not exaggerate
  • take care when relying on tests or surveys.

The guidelines also outline traders’ obligations when making lifecycle claims, which include composition claims, production claims and disposal claims, and cover other common environmental claims, including comparative claims, branding and certification stamps.

The Environmental Claims Guidelines can be found on the Commission’s website and will be updated periodically to provide further guidance as case law, legislation or business practices evolve.