Goodbye greenwashing. How the Green Claims Code will impact brand storytelling
With the Competition & Markets Authority now enforcing the Green Claims Code, Bray Leino’s Sustainability Communications Director, Grace Reith, explains the key take outs and the importance of responsible marketing.
On 1st January the CMA’s new Green Claims Code came into force. This, alongside the Advertising Standards Authority Codes, is there to stop brands greenwashing and provide them with a clear set of guidelines to enable people to shop responsibly, with confidence.
We know some brands unintentionally greenwash – it can be tricky to get a clear read (biodegradable vs compostable, full lifecycles of paper products vs plastic) and, whilst trying to do the right thing, you can sometimes get it wrong. The key take outs of the Code are pretty simple though (and what you’d hope for from any conversation with another human being): Be honest, factual, clear. And put things in context. And, if you’re not sure, don’t say it (or check in with a legal advisor).
For those businesses doing genuinely good stuff for the planet, don’t let this Code scare you off from telling your stories though. It's in place to help you shine brighter. By communicating what you’re doing, you’ll amplify your positive impact; You’ll enable people to choose you over another brand; Other businesses will have to sit up and start following your lead.
Key take outs to avoid greenwashing
Here are our headline take outs but please read the full guides in the links below or give us a shout for guidance.
Knowing what impact you’re having on the planet is all about data – measurement and reduction. So, base everything on fact, and make sure you have (current) evidence to prove it. How is it better for the environment, or better than your last product, or another brand (and how)? Where’s the data or third-party verification to back up what you’re saying?
Don’t blind people with numbers, but make sure you have proof if you’re claiming something.
Don’t be sneaky. It’s not clever
- Don’t hide anything in T&Cs that contradicts the general message in your communications.
- Don’t make a claim out of something that all similar products have to do. If, legally, you have to do things in a certain way (like a drinks company not using plastic straws), this doesn’t make your brand special; It’s a legal requirement .
- Drop any ambiguous or misleading words. Real watch outs are ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘environmentally-friendly’. The same goes for visuals – using a green colour palette or pictures of leaves to suggest your product has a positive impact on the planet when it doesn’t. It’s deceiving and, let’s be honest, not exactly ground-breaking design.
- Don’t blind with science or ‘sustainability’ words. If your next-door neighbour doesn’t understand it, don’t say it that way.
Give full context
- If you’re claiming a product is good/better for the environment, you need to consider its whole lifecycle, not just some positive impact happening at one point. For example, how do you source what goes into the product, what does goes into it, how do you make it, how do you transport it, how is it disposed of? There’s a big picture to consider when looking at impact on the environment.
- Include information on how to dispose of the product and/or packaging responsibly and in a way that can be accessed by the majority of people.
Also, make sure you check you’re following the guidance set out by your industry’s regulatory body. And if you’re unsure on any of the legislation, get your messaging checked out by a legal advisor. Let’s make it easier for people to consume consciously, not harder.
Grace Reith is Sustainability Communications Director at Bray Leino, overseeing the Agency’s house sustainability strategy as well as Client sustainability communications services. Grace is also a trained B Leader, supporting businesses through the B Corp certification process.
For information on how Bray Leino can support your brand’s sustainability journey, contact Grace Reith.