uses cookies to analyze how the website is used, and to improve the user experience. Read more about cookies

ACM: revised guidelines offer more clarity regarding misleading and vague sustainability claims

Consumers are entitled to clear, complete, and concrete information about the sustainability aspects of products and services. Terms such as climate-neutral, sustainable or environmentally-conscious are too vague and therefore easily misleading. Consumers must be able to make more-sustainable choices with correct information. That is why the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has updated its ‘Guidelines regarding sustainability claims’. The revised guidelines contain five rules of thumb that businesses must follow when selling products and services.

Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Consumers must be able to have confidence that sustainability claims are true. Only then will they be able to make more-sustainable choices. With these revised guidelines, we offer businesses practical advice on the phrasing and substantiation of their sustainability claims. Having correct and clear sustainability claims is also in the interest of businesses themselves in order to create a level playing field.”

Revised guidelines regarding sustainability claims

ACM has revised its ‘Guidelines regarding sustainability claims’ from 2021. Over the past couple of years, ACM has gained experience with the application of its guidelines and with sustainability claims in real life. In addition, ACM has incorporated the responses of various companies and trade associations into this new version as well as the latest European legislative developments. The revised guidelines now explain more clearly how sustainability claims must be phrased and substantiated. Furthermore, the guidelines offer clear examples of correct and incorrect sustainability claims.

Five rules of thumb

The revised guidelines contain five rules of thumb for correct sustainability claims:

  1. Use correct, clear, specific, and complete sustainability claims
  2. Substantiate your sustainability claims with facts, and keep them up-to-date
  3. Make fair comparisons with other products or competitors
  4. Describe future sustainability ambitions in concrete and verifiable terms
  5. Make sure that visual claims and labels are useful to consumers, not confusing

The first two rules of thumb apply to all sustainability claims. Rules of thumb 3 through 5 are extra requirements for the use of comparative claims, claims about sustainability ambitions of businesses, and visual claims and labels.

ACM and sustainability

Sustainable production and consumption play a major role in the transition to a more-sustainable society. Regulation of sustainability claims of companies will help towards that goal. Consumers must be able to make sustainable choices with confidence. Companies that make an effort towards sustainability must be protected against companies that compete unfairly by using misleading claims. In addition, ACM wishes to create the right conditions for stimulating the transition to a more-sustainable economy. ACM removes barriers, and offers latitude, where possible. ACM ensures that markets work well for people and businesses, now and in the future.

See also