The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has drawn up rules of thumb for sustainability claims that businesses use when selling their products and services. With these rules of thumb, ACM believes that businesses will inform consumers more correctly and properly about the sustainability aspects of their products or services. This will help boost confidence among consumers in sustainable products. As a result, markets for sustainable products and services will be able to grow and evolve even further.
ACM sees that consumers increasingly take into account sustainability aspects in their purchasing decisions. That makes it very interesting for businesses to promote their products and services as ‘sustainable’. Yet, consumers are not able to verify such claims by themselves. They must be able to have confidence that the claims that businesses make are true. False or misleading claims (also referred to as ‘greenwashing’) harm confidence among consumers, and result in unfair competition with businesses that do things correctly.
Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, comments: “For consumers and businesses that wish to contribute to a more sustainable society, it is important that information about sustainability is correct and verifiable. These rules of thumb make clear what the requirements for sustainability claims are. If businesses and consumers encounter any false or misleading sustainability claims, they have the opportunity to submit them to us.”
Rules of thumb for honest claims
ACM has drawn up five rules of thumb for businesses:
- Make clear what sustainability benefit the product offers
- Substantiate your sustainability claims with facts, and keep them up-to-date
- Comparisons with other products, services, or companies must be fair
- Be honest and specific about your company’s efforts with regard to sustainability
- Make sure that visual claims and labels are useful to consumers, not confusing
ACM has published guidelines in which these rules of thumb are explained using various examples. ACM invites businesses and other organizations to share their thoughts about these guidelines, and to submit their opinions. They can do so until 20 October 2020.
ACM and sustainability
Sustainability is a major topic for ACM in many different ways. For example, one of the key priorities on ACM’s Agenda is the energy transition. In addition, ACM has taken the following actions:
- ACM has called on the Dutch legislature to introduce stricter rules for certification labels to prevent consumers from being misled;
- ACM has published guidelines regarding the opportunities for businesses that wish to work together to promote sustainability;
- ACM has responded to a proposal of the European Commission that aims to have consumers receive better and more reliable information about the sustainability aspects of products.