Australia’s competition regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that it will be investigating companies for potential greenwashing, after it conducted a study that found concerning environmental or sustainability-related claims from over half of businesses reviewed.

The study involved an internet sweep by ACCC of 247 companies across a broad range of sectors  including energy, vehicles, household products and appliances, food and drink packaging, cosmetics, clothing and footwear, aimed at identifying misleading environmental and sustainability marketing claims.

The ACCC said that the study found that 57% of companies studied in the sweep were identified as having made concerning claims about their environmental credentials. By sector, the highest proportion of concerning claims were found in the cosmetic, clothing and footwear and food and drink sectors.

According to ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe, the study comes as consumers are increasingly considering environmental factors in their purchase decisions, yet, “it appears that rather than making legitimate changes to their practices and procedures, some businesses are relying on false or misleading claims.”

Lowe said that the ACCC already has several active greenwashing investigations underway in several sectors, “and these may grow, as we continue to conduct more targeted assessments into businesses and claims identified through the sweep.”

Lowe added:

“Businesses using broad claims like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘sustainable’ are obliged to back up these claims through reliable scientific reports, transparent supply chain information, reputable third-party certification or other forms of evidence.”

In addition to the investigations and potential enforcement action, the regulator said that it will conduct education activities with businesses and update guidance to help improve the integrity of environmental claims.

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