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Irwin Mitchell: Sustaining green claims through the supply chain

By Tim Wickham
26 October 2021

With the UN's 26th Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow about to start, law firm Irwin Mitchell believes it is no surprise that ahead of the event the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched its Green Claims Code. The Code applies to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

“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," warns Charlotte Hargreaves, Practice Development Lawyer at Irwin Mitchell. "The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) can also take action for misleading green claims which appear in advertising."

She added: “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?

Hargreaves explained that 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,” said Hargreaves.

“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.”

Charlotte Hargreaves, Practice Development Lawyer, Irwin Mitchell

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. Irwin Mitchell recommended that businesses should make sure they can do so. “That may mean ensuring they obtain evidence from others in the supply chain” noted Hargreaves.

What is a 'green claim'?

The firm explained that 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.

More information

For a quick overview see Irwin Mitchell’s Dos & Don'ts List.

Read the Green Claims Code.

Contact Irwin Mitchell’s specialist consumer team.