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Environmental Claims: Do Consumers Understand What They are Buying?

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Green beauty and green claims are everywhere. ‘Environmentally-friendly’, ‘Better for the Planet’ and ‘Eco-responsible’ are all examples of environmental claims that brands and marketers advertise on their products in many sectors. What is truly the meaning behind

these environmental claims?

Consumers are gravitating more to these types of advertised products as their goal is to try to reduce their carbon footprint and behave more sustainably. With the growing concern for our environment and climate change, these claims are only increasing. But with growing claims comes a greater risk of greenwashing and more need for specific rulings and good practices to prevent it.

Buying ‘Green’

Marketing tools are going beyond textual claims on packaging and are taking form in symbols, logos, graphics, and product names - some even changing the package to shades of green to show they are more sustainable. Various retailers are adding sections into their stores and websites to promote products with environmental claims. Selfridges have a ‘Project Earth’ section that represents their sustainability strategy - transitioning to more sustainable materials and providing planet conscious products. Sephora has their ‘Good for’ section highlighting products that are ‘good for you and better for the planet’ which requires all formulas to have at least 90% of ingredients to be of natural origin. These types of products attract a consumer looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Complex Claims

Green claims are very complex because environmental issues are very broad. They encompass multiple challenges about water, energy, farming, carbon emission, packaging and waste, transport, etc. It will therefore be more intricate for one particular product to be manufactured and supplied in a way that would address all those topics. Consequently, a green claim that is not qualified or transparently explained could be very difficult to be understood accurately by the consumer. Often, it seems, consumers do not understand what green beauty is based on and could be buying products without really understanding the real eco benefit of the product. Clarity and information on environmental claims are very difficult to find and understand and therefore consumers often turn to social media to educate themselves. Although amazing content on this topic exists online, some content creators may influence the consumer on whether to purchase (or not purchase) a particular brand or product by implying or stating ‘eco-friendly’ benefits which result in the rise of some broad environmental claims.

Unfortunately, generic ‘supporting the environment’ claims can often be baseless as well as borderline on being untruthful. Greenwashing is really damaging the economy and consumer trust but most importantly it is not helping to find suitable alternative environmental solutions. Greenwashing creates a vicious cycle of pushing boundaries on proper advertising whereas companies that are really working on the topic and want to communicate ethically on the issue are being disadvantaged.

Our Stance

At Bloom Regulatory, we are fully committed to support companies developing green goals and helping them to develop environmental strategies. Every day we learn more about the planet and how we, as businesses, consumers and citizens impact the environment in a changing world. As a result, we need to try new ideas and implement and monitor them to assess their suitability. We advise on the U.K. Green Claims Code and emphasise the importance of being transparent and honest so as to avoid creating misleading environmental claims. Environmental claims should still not be used unless robust evidence substantiating the claim can be provided for the product throughout its full life cycle, from manufacture to disposal.

We are very proud to have met ambitious people in companies, either at senior or junior level, being passionate about the environment and willing to find original and ambitious solutions in an open minded way to navigate this complex topic.

Bloom will present on Environmental Claims - Opportunities and Challenges on 25 October at the In-Cosmetics Formulation Summit in London. Click the link below to book your place at this conference.

Written by: Ember Bryant

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