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How ETL accreditation helps combat greenwashing

How ETL accreditation helps combat greenwashing

ETL accreditation helps combat greenwashing claims; why is that so important?

Independent verification of energy efficient products is a key way to overcome scepticism around environmental claims. Such accreditation is a big part of what the Energy Technology List offers – but why is it so important?

Read on to discover more about the kind of scepticism energy-saving tech faces today and why it’s important to cut through the noise surrounding it. 

Talk is cheap: greenwashing and green claims

Greenwashing involves making false, unsubstantiated, or misleading claims about a company's products or practices being environmentally friendly. Using vague terms like ‘green’ and providing labels (like nature-based imagery) designed to make consumers believe that their products are eco-friendly, will be very difficult to substantiate and are therefore likely to be clear-cut examples of greenwashing.

Green claims refer to statements made by companies or organisations about their environmentally friendly practices, or the sustainability of their products or services. These claims can include terms like ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘sustainable’, or ‘environmentally sound’ and are intended to convey a positive image – and attract environmentally conscious customers.

Such terms can be harmful for a few reasons. If they are untrue or incapable of substantiation, they undermine genuine efforts towards sustainability that businesses and individuals make, making it hard to discern who is for real and who is not. Greenwashing and misleading green claims also diminish purchasers’ confidence and, if they feel overwhelmed, they won’t know who to turn to for good advice.

Combatting it in the UK and beyond

There is a strong response to greenwashing from some businesses who know that more evidence is needed in the market for customers to make informed decisions. The Anti-Greenwash Charter carried out an industry-wide survey with Futurebuild which shed light on the impact of greenwashing on the built environment industry – and it outlines some stark figures. Its survey of 420 businesses concluded that 88% of people “think ‘greenwashing’ is problematic” and that 72% would “pay a higher cost for a product that has been developed by a business that has invested in providing greater evidence of sustainable claims.” Download the full report here.

Additionally, regulators such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are taking active steps to combat greenwashing claims in the consumer retail sector. The ASA has ruled against misleading claims made by companies accused of greenwashing, while the CMA has published a Green Claims Code. Proposed new laws would enable the CMA to impose fines of up to tens of millions of pounds for breaches of consumer protection law, which would include making misleading green claims, and the Financial Conduct Authority is proposing restrictions on the use of terms like ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’.

The existing list of EU-banned commercial practices is also soon to be updated to include greenwashing terms like ‘biodegradable’’ and ‘eco’. Not only that, but legislators also wish to provide better product durability, stopping firms from presenting goods as repairable when they’re not. It is expected by 2026 and you can find out more on the European Parliament’s website.

CMA Green Claims Code

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has developed the Green Claims Code, six key principles for manufacturers and vendors to follow to ensure that they don’t mislead consumers when making environmental claims. We first talked about this back in April as it was being developed in our article about the importance of independent verification. We’ve outlined the principles comprising the Code below, but you can read more on their website.

1. Be truthful and accurate.
Environmental claims should not be exaggerated or misleading in any way.

2. Provide evidence to substantiate a claim.
Claims should be supported by robust and reliable evidence, such as scientific data or independent testing.

3. Be clear and unambiguous.
Claims should be easy for consumers to understand and not open to misinterpretation.

4. Ensure that comparisons are fair and meaningful.
Claims should make clear what the product or service is being compared to.

5. Consider the full life cycle.
Claims should take into account the environmental impact of the product or service throughout its entire life cycle, from production to disposal.

6. Do not omit or hide important information.
Any qualifications or limitations to the claim should be clearly stated and not undermine the overall message.

Manufacturers and purchasers of energy-saving technology: boost your confidence with the ETL today

The message is clear: customers think greenwashing is a problem and that they would pay more for a product that has invested in providing greater evidence of sustainable claims. So how does the ETL fit into the conversation?

The Energy Technology List is backed by the Government's Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ). Listed products have been tested and stringently assessed for energy performance – ensuring we have the evidence to back up what we say and what we list.

Manufacturers – your listing comes with an actual brand mark you can use in your communications, providing assurance for purchasers – who may be sceptical and worried about greenwashing claims – that the energy performance of your product has been held to a high standard of testing. Ready to get listed? Simply head over to our manufacturers page and register. 

Purchasers – browse and compare products with confidence that they have met stringent criteria for energy performance, are aligned to the latest Government policies, and are within the top 25% most efficient in the market for their class. To learn more and to browse the list, visit our purchasers page.