Marketing communications using environmental claims, also known as Green Claims, has been a growing trend and, as a consequence, has had increasing scrutiny.
The Directorate-General for the Consumer (DGC) and the Portuguese Advertising Self-Regulation entity (ARP) have recently published a guide on commercial practices for companies that aim to associate their brands with the theme of sustainability, in particular with regard to the environmental aspect, using environmental claims. Moreover, this guide also provides information for consumers, alerting them on practices used in environmental claims used in marketing and advertising.
Green Claims are defined as claims/information conveyed in commercial communication suggesting that a product or service has a positive impact or a less harmful impact on the environment, notably on i) the environment and sustainability; or related to ii) recycling, energy and water efficiency, among others.
According to the Portuguese legal and regulatory framework any environmental claims must be well visible, easily comprehensible, with immediate proximity to an explanatory declaration where the exact limits, scope and facts substantiating the claim are communicated.
Therefore this specific type of claim must be:
(a) truthful and precise;
(b) relevant for the intended purpose;
(c) clear and precise;
(c) respectful of the consumer´s rights;
Non-compliance with these requirements is deemed to be considered as “greenwashing” – intended to attract consumers to purchase products and services that do not in fact contribute to sustainable consumption - and may constitute an administrative offence.
A list of the good and bad practices is also presented in the guide. The use of terms as “ECO”, GREEN”, “ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY” or “ZERO” without proper substantiating is not well received by the responsible supervising and regulatory authorities. Misleading information is of course considered a bad practice.
Consumers are encouraged to request for further data in case of uncertainty about the quality of the product or service and sustainability benefit claimed.
It is expected that these guidelines will not only contribute to consumer’s awareness but also to clarify the mandatory rules that are subject to enforcement by public authorities.