BRC warns competition regulator’s ‘tough approach’ to greenwashing could scare off business

There is a “real risk” that businesses could retreat from their green efforts amid the competition regulator’s “tough approach” to greenwashing, according to a leading retail association.

The British Retail Consortium has issued the warning following the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ramping up its greenwashing activity as it increases scrutiny of firms that might be exaggerating their sustainability credentials to attract more customers and green-focused investor funds.

In comments first reported by The Times, Helen Dickinson, BRC CEO, said there was “a real risk they will pull back and not feel confident to shout about the things they are doing well”, adding “we shouldn’t let that stand in the way”.

She said the regulator has to “make sure there is clarity for what is expected” from businesses and “work for retailers to make sure they can stand behind what they’re saying and live up to the claims they’re making”.

But the CEO said she understood the need for businesses to be more transparent about their processes.

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Dickinson’s intervention comes as the CMA focuses on previous greenwashing claims made by Asos, Bohoo and George at Asda about their fashion products.

The CMA said possible outcomes could include securing undertakings from the companies to change the way they operate, taking the firms to court or closing the case without further action.

It is also investigating Unilever amid concerns about how its marketing certain products as ‘environmentally friendly.’

The regulator is also probing the fast-moving consumer goods sector as it seeks to ensure that shoppers, who spend £140 billion a year on consumer products, are not falling for greenwashing and being misled about their eco-friendly credentials.

A CMA spokeswoman said: “A key part of our green claims work is helping businesses to understand and comply with their legal responsibilities when making environmental claims. That’s why we created the green claims code — a detailed set of principles, with case studies, that helps businesses talk about their environmental actions in a clear and accurate way. As we move forward with our work in this area, we’ll continue to engage with businesses.”

Circular economyClimate crisisMarketingNature and the environmentNet zeroNewsPolicyRetailSocial sustainabilitySupply Chain

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