The Green Claims Code (GCC) is a set of guidance drawn up by the Competition & Markets Authority to help businesses navigate making environmental claims in marketing materials.
It is not legal advice or requirements (yet) but a helpful document to guide businesses to avoiding greenwashing.
If you’re a small business owner, there’s some simple messages to take from the GCC and it’s important to be aware of.
While the document is comprehensive it is also focused more on larger companies.
In this article we set out the impacts for small businesses.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the intentional misrepresentation of facts to be more “green” than they are.
A good example of this was in December 2021, where MacDonalds opened its first “Net Zero” restaurant with hefty media coverage following it.
Headlines mentioned “Net Zero Restaurant” when the reality was only the building had been built to a NZ standard. Aside from the built fabric, there was little Net Zero about McDonald’s operations. However people may see “Net Zero Restaurant” and assume this includes all parts of it – food, cooking, energy, supply chain etc.
This is what the Green Claims Code aims to hold to account and ensure companies avoid.
Many small businesses are fearful that they will fall foul of the Green Claims Code (GCC). However, unless you’re intentionally misleading your customers then it is unlikely you’ll be on the wrong side of it.
When speaking to small businesses I have found Greenhushing to be far more prevalent – where businesses are so scared of being accused of greenwashing that they say nothing instead, despite having strong green credentials.
What does it mean for my business?
The CMA will be starting to pressure companies to be more transparent in the coming years and months, though no official timeline has been set for this to start.
This will affect large companies first, and will include all stages of the supply chain.
For example, if you are selling a product that someone else makes that has false green claims, they will be going after the Manufacturer rather than your retail shop.
Ultimately for small businesses the solution is to be transparent and honest.
If you can’t switch to a green energy supplier because you’re a tenant, say so. If you’re unable to use certain packaging due to costs, say so.
Green Claims Guidance
The biggest issues the GCC is trying to address are where companies intentionally misleading or confusing claims. Communicating your struggles as well as your successes puts you in a strong position to naturally avoid issues from the GCC.
There are 6 key principles the Guidance is built around:
- Be Truthful and Accurate
- Be clear and Unambiguous
- Not omit or hide important information
- Only make fair and meaningful comparisons
- Consider the Full Lifecycle of the product
- Be Substantiated
In essence, don’t try to mislead or misrepresent your claims in a way that benefits the product over the truth!
Green Claims Code Checklist
There are 13 different items that are contained within the checklist. The full amount can be viewed here, but they can be summarised with the need to be transparent and honest.
They also have a helpful Quiz to demonstrate some of these concepts. Take the quiz here.
What do I need to know?
- Be Transparent and Honest
- Don’t intentionally mislead
- Focus will be on manufacturers and large companies first