Competition & Markets Authority
CMA to scrutinise ‘green’ claims in sales of household essentials
The CMA will examine the accuracy of ‘green’ claims made about household essentials – such as food, drink, and toiletries – to make sure shoppers are not being misled.
- Shoppers spent over £130 billion last year on household essentials, including food and drink, cleaning products, and personal care items
- A significant number of household products are marketed as green or environmentally friendly, including up to 91% of all dishwashing items and 100% of toilet products
- CMA Chief Executive: “We’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem”
The move is an expansion of ongoing work by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into ‘greenwashing’, which seeks to get to the bottom of whether products and services that claim to be green or eco-friendly are being marketed to shoppers accurately.
The CMA’s review will examine a wide range of products known as ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ (FMCG). These are essential items used by people on a daily basis and repurchased regularly, such as food and drink, cleaning products, toiletries, and personal care items. In 2021, the average household spent almost £70 a week on food and drink alone, and the FMCG sector as a whole is worth over £130 billion annually.
The CMA will analyse environmental claims made about such products – both online and in store – to consider whether companies are complying with UK consumer protection law. Concerning practices could include the use of vague and broad eco-statements for example packaging or marketing a product as ‘sustainable’ or ‘better for the environment’ with no evidence; misleading claims about the use of recycled or natural materials in a product and how recyclable it is; and entire ranges being incorrectly branded as ‘sustainable’.
Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:
These products are the essentials on everyone’s shopping lists: food and drink, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste, cleaning products. As more people than ever try to do their bit to help protect the environment, we’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem, especially at a time when the cost of living continues to rise.
Our work to date has shown there could be greenwashing going on in this sector, and we’ll be scrutinising companies big and small to see whether their environmental claims stack up. Now is a good time for businesses to review their practices and make sure they’re operating within the law.
The move comes as part of the CMA’s ongoing work into misleading green claims. In January 2022, the CMA turned its eye to the fashion sector, launching enforcement action against well-known fashion brands ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda in July last year. The CMA wrote to the 3 firms outlining its concerns and the investigation is ongoing.
The CMA also produced the Green Claims Code – a guide to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, while avoiding the risk of misleading shoppers.
How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. If the CMA uncovers evidence suggesting green claims could be unfounded, it will consider taking enforcement action using its formal powers – for example, opening an investigation into specific companies.
In its Annual Plan consultation 2023 to 2024, the CMA detailed its strategic priority to continue to take action to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy and promote environmental sustainability.
More information can be found on the CMA’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods investigation page.
Notes to editors
- The key piece of consumer protection legislation relevant to the CMA’s Green Claims Code, and to today’s announcement, is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The CPRs contain a general prohibition against unfair commercial practices and specific prohibitions against misleading actions and misleading omissions.
- Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are high-demand, essential products used by people on a daily basis. They are often sold quickly and repurchased regularly. They include items such as food (perishable and non-perishable) and drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), cleaning products (washing up liquid, dishwasher detergent/tablets, surface cleaners, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent, fabric conditioner, etc), homecare products (toilet roll, kitchen roll, handwash, etc), self-care products (toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap/bodywash etc), amongst other items.
- The following statistic is a CMA calculation: Shoppers spent over £130 billion last year on household essentials, including food and drink, cleaning products, and personal care. This calculation comes from:
- UK consumer spending on food and non-alcoholic drinks was around £118 billion in 2021 according to Statista reports on consumer spending: food and non-alcoholic drinks
- UK consumer spending on retail, beauty and personal care products was estimated at over £10 billion in 2021. (Mintel, UK 2022, Beauty and Personal Care Retailing report); and
- The size of the retail household care products market was around £6 billion in the UK in 2020. (Mintel, COVID-19 AND HOUSEHOLD CARE: A YEAR ON, UK, MARCH 2021)
- The following statistic is taken from the ONS Family spending in the UK: April 2020 to March 2021 and relates to food and non-alcoholic beverages: In 2021, the average household spent almost £70 a week alone on food and drink alone.
- The following statistic is taken from Mintel’s The UK Green Household Care Consumer Market Report 2021: A significant number of household products are marketed as ‘green’, including up to 91% of all dishwashing items and 100% of toilet products
- Examples and case studies can be found in the CMA’s The Green Claims Code: Environmental Claims on Goods and Services.
- Media enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3738 6460.
- All enquiries from the general public should be directed to the CMA’s General Enquiries team on email@example.com or 020 3738 6000.
Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-to-scrutinise-green-claims-in-sales-of-household-essentials
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