Packaging data specialist, ecoveritas, has shared its perspective on the consumer’s changing relationship to sustainability and believes an end to ‘the age of greenwashing’ is in sight for the retail sector.
Greenwashing, where green claims are exaggerated, distorted or presented without context, has become a significant barrier to environmentally focused commerce. However, ecoveritas believes the combination of changing consumer attitudes and new legislation signals the next important evolution in modern business.
Andrew McCaffery, EPR Director at ecoveritas, explains: “When we look back at the history of the retail industry, we recognise key landmarks such as the first cash registers, the age of advertising and more recently, the rise of online retail. Sustainability has the potential to be just as impactful. Global consumers are actively switched on to green issues and are looking to affect positive change how they can, and for most of us, that’s in our buying decisions. Greenwashing, however, has been a real challenge – environmental claims have been somewhat of a wild west, without unifying regulation.
“However, two key changes have come about. Consumers are getting hands-on with sustainability and as a result, more wary of claims. We also have the Green Claims Code (GCC), new directives from the UK Government’s Competition & Markets Authority. The GCC is designed to pull all externally communicated sustainability claims into line and give more uniformity and more transparency. Intrinsically, the Green Claims Code makes it harder to make insincere or confusing claims, so we’re set to see more clarity and honesty. Simply put, we’re giving meaning back to sustainability.”
The Green Claims Code, which covers on-pack, off-pack, and digital communications, aims to level the sustainability playing field while increasing consumer protection. The guidance has six key principles that all environmental claims must adhere to, including being truthful and accurate, substantiated, consider the full life cycle of the product or service, and that comparisons are fair and meaningful.
ecoveritas believes that crucially, the retail industry is seeing the start of a new sustainability era – one that is transparent and protective long-term.
Andrew added: “Retail is just one example of industries taking tighter control of sustainability, but it runs the full gamut of business. The combination of consumer interest, consumer demand and government directives mean that we’re looking at sustainability as an opportunity to ‘do good’, and not as shallow marketing buzz or a box ticking exercise.
However, we also have be aware of the wider challenges that come with greenwashing and how it expands beyond products and packaging. For example, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns of the ‘demand’ side of climate change greenwashing as opposed to the ‘supply’ side, which considers more lifestyle-oriented factors, such as travel, logistics and energy use. This shows that it’s not a simple story to tell, and that packaging is part of a much bigger climate picture.
“By putting an end to greenwashing in the areas we can change, we’re creating more secure industries, building back consumer trust and affecting positive change to the world around us. It’s a fantastically exciting time for retail, and we look forward to helping our clients reap the benefits of a clearer, more transparent and data-led approach to sustainability. We have developed a diverse suite of digital tools to make the process simpler and provide brands with access to instant, clear information that doesn’t leave room for interpretation or confusion.”
To learn more about ecoveritas, its data-driven approach to sustainability and comprehensive service offering for brands, retailers and their supply chains, please visit www.ecoveritas.com