How to make compliant sustainability claims (& avoid greenwashing)

by | Jul 19, 2023 | Compliance/Legislation, Marketing, Marketing Claims | 0 comments

As you may have heard, greenwashing is a hot topic at the moment!

The cosmetics industry is littered with potential greenwashing claims like “sustainable”, “eco-friendly” and “good for you and the earth”.

In March 2023, the ACCC released the results of their online sweep for misleading environmental and sustainability claims. They found that 73% of cosmetics and personal care products reviewed were making concerning claims related to sustainability.

This meant cosmetics and personal care was the worst performing sector!

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a brand owner, you want to make sure your claims aren’t in this 73% and that claims you make around your brand and products are compliant.

This will help you avoid attention from the ACCC, who is increasing its focus on non-compliant sustainability claims, which are prohibited under the Australian Consumer Law.

Get it wrong, and you could be up for costly label reprints, ACCC-issued substantiation notices, fines or legal action. Not to mention reputation damage when the media gets a hold of it, which could ruin the customer loyalty and trust you’ve worked so hard to build (the newspapers love to report this type of stuff!).

If you’re a cosmetic chemist, manufacturer or ingredient supplier, you want to help your clients understand what claims they can make about a product or ingredient.

When you understand how to comply with the regulations around sustainability claims, you’ll know how and when to market your brand, your products or ingredients as sustainable – with confidence.

And we know that it’s becoming more and more a dealbreaker for a lot of consumers! (Sustainability is not just a trend, it’s the way of the future!)

What’s the latest?

In July 2023, the ACCC released draft guidance for businesses to help them make compliant sustainability claims (and avoid greenwashing).

I was pleased to see that the guidance was in line with what I presented at the ASCC Conference in May 2023!

The guidance is based on 8 principles:

  1. Make accurate and truthful claims
  2. Have evidence to back up your claims
  3. Don’t leave out or hide important information
  4. Explain any conditions or qualifications on your claims
  5. Avoid broad and unqualified claims
  6. Use clear and easy-to-understand language
  7. Visual elements should not give the wrong impression
  8. Be direct and open about your sustainability transition

In summary: be truthful, transparent and able to back up your sustainability claims (the same applies to any claims really!).

You always need to be open and honest with your customers – so the guidance shouldn’t have any surprises in there for you.

But it always helps to have practical examples, and the guidance document has a lot of examples in there, so make sure you check it out!

Read the full draft guidance document here. 

Got feedback on the document? The draft guidance is open for industry consultation, so let the ACCC know any feedback you’ve got by 15 September 2023.

How can I help you?

Comment below with any questions!


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Jennifer Rudd Skincare Business Foundations 28

Hi, I'm Jen

Founder of Skincare Business Foundations, I help skincare and beauty founders build compliant and ethical brands that last.


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