The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issued guidance for businesses and industry on the use of environmental claims in marketing.

Graeme Samuel, ACCC Chairman, said that the guidelines aim to aim to educate businesses about their obligations and and to assist manufacturers, suppliers, advertisers and others to assess the strength of any green claims they make. This will help to improve the accuracy and usefulness to consumers of their labeling, packaging and advertising.

However, choosing to ignore the ACCC’s advice could lead to fines of up to $1.1 million.

Companies which label products as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘environmentally safe’, ‘energy efficient’, ‘recyclable’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘renewable’ or ‘green’ can expect the ACCC to be checking their claims.

A here for a full copy of the Guidelines (.pdf). The main points are below:

The ACCC’s key guidelines are:

• Avoid using terms like ‘safe’ and ‘friendly’ and unqualified pictures or graphics. At best they are unhelpful and encourage skepticism; at worst they are misleading.

• Spell out exactly what is beneficial about a product in plain language that consumers can understand.

• Link the environmental benefit to a specific part of the product or its production process, such as extraction, transportation, manufacture, use, packaging or disposal.

• Make sure any claims you make about your product can be substantiated. Think about how you would answer a query regarding the environmental benefits you are claiming about your product. For example, what scientific authority could you use to justify the basis of your claim?

• Explain how a product’s characteristic is beneficial to the environment. For example, explain that a phosphate-free product is less damaging in river systems because phosphate promotes algal growth, which can clog up rivers.

• Avoid giving the impression that your product is completely environmentally benign if it is not.

• Use the claim only in an appropriate context or setting. For example, do not claim that a product is not tested on animals if it is a product that would never be tested on animals anyway.