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Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers: Sustaining green claims throughout the supply chain

The UN's 26th Climate Change Conference, known as COP 26, will convene in Glasgow from 31 October - 12 November so it is perhaps no surprise that six weeks before the Competition and Markets Authority has launched its final Green Claims Code. The Code applies to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

For a quick overview see our Dos & Don'ts List below



Make the claim accurate and clear for all to understand

Don’t focus on one part of the product while misleading people about the other parts or the overall impact on the environment

Ensure the claim is supported with credible, up-to-date evidence

Don’t include partially correct or incorrect aspects or conditions that apply

Ensure the claim clearly tells the whole story of a product or service

Don’t mislead customers or other suppliers with the claim

When making general claims (for example eco-friendly, green or sustainable) ensure the claims reflect the whole life cycle of the brand/product/business/service and is justified with evidence

Don’t exaggerate the positive impact, or contain anything untrue, whether clearly stated or   implied within the claim

If conditions (or caveats) apply to a claim, ensure they’re clearly set out and can be understood by all

Don’t conceal or omit any information about the environmental impact that people need to   make informed choices

Durability or disposability information should be clearly explained and labelled

Don’t claim features or benefits that are necessary standard features or legal requirements of that product/service type as environmental benefits.

Any information that can’t fit into the claim must still be easily accessible to customers in other ways (QR code, website, etc.)

Any comparisons must be fair and accurate and clear for all to understand

If a business doesn’t comply with consumer protection law, the CMA and other bodies – such as Trading Standards Services or sector regulators – may bring court proceedings.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) can also take action for misleading green claims which appear in advertising.

If a green claim is found to be in breach of consumer protection law the business can be forced to make changes to the claim or make a payment of redress to any consumers that may have been harmed by the breach. 

Who does the Code apply to?

The green claims code is for all businesses who make environmental claims. These claims may be made by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. The claims may be made about goods or services, or particular components or aspects of them.

They may also be made about a brand or business as a whole.

If the claims are ultimately aimed at consumers, the Code will apply, even if the claims are made by a manufacturer who does not have direct contact with a consumer. Retailers should therefore assure themselves that any claims made by manufacturers are accurate and not misleading. The guidance also applies to businesses marketing to other businesses.

Businesses, including manufacturers and those further up the supply chain, that engage in commercial practices connected with promoting the sale or supply of products to consumers, can be held responsible for the impact of those practices.

Where one business manufactures or supplies products to another, whether for resale or incorporation into other products, both businesses may be liable for claims and may have to substantiate them. Businesses should make sure they can do so. That may mean ensuring they obtain evidence from others in the supply chain.

What is a 'green claim'?

Environmental claims can be explicit or implicit. They can appear in advertisements, marketing material, branding, on packaging or in other information provided to consumers. All aspects of a claim may be relevant, such as:

• the meaning of any terms used
• the qualifications and explanations of what is said
• the evidence that supports those claims
• the information that is not included or hidden
• the colours, pictures and logos used
• the overall presentation.

To read the Code and guidance in full see:

How Can Irwin Mitchell Help? 

We have a specialist consumer team with vast experience in advertising regulations. With offices across the UK, we can help wherever you or your business is based.