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New regulations needed to curb greenwashing

by Vanessa Elley (she/her)

news writer

Consumer NZ is calling for new regulations on greenwashing, to crack down on companies making misleading or false environmental claims.

The call also pushes for independent investigation into greenwashing in Aotearoa, to assess the scale of dodgy sustainability claims on our shelves.

Head of Research and Advocacy at Consumer NZ, Gemma Rasmussen, says that it is often more profitable for companies to “appear” sustainable.

“When companies appear to be more sustainable, often it means that they can be more profitable because people do want to make the right choice… it also undermines the work of companies that are making genuine steps towards being more sustainable.”

Currently, the Commerce Commission has strong environmental claims guidelines in place for businesses to follow.

However, some businesses are ignoring the guidelines in favour of cashing in on consumer’s environmental concerns.

Rasmussen says it’s hard for consumers to make real ecofriendly choices when buying, even though there has been a large increase in “green” products on shelves over the past ten years.

New regulations needed to curb greenwashing NEWS “It took our investigator hours to contact companies to get them to verify the claims that they were making, to cut through their marketing jargon… there really isn't a lot of hope for shoppers to be able to differentiate between what is legitimate to what is not.”

Companies who are committed to environmental leadership are opting to clarify their sustainability claims in response to heightened awareness of greenwashing.

New Zealand home care and skincare company Ecostore said in a statement: “Greenwashing has been on consumers' minds recently and rightly so. Regulators in the EU, UK, and Australia have found that 40-50% of environmental claims in industries like clothing, cosmetics, food and drinks are false… So we thought we’d share more about why we say the things we do about our products.”

Although shoppers’ main concern during the cost of living crisis has been price competitiveness, events such as Cyclone Gabrielle have renewed climate concern, says Rasmussen.

“Climate is coming to the forefront of concerns, and people do rightly want to make the right choice where they can. So we would really like it to be clearer for people, because we don’t think it’s reasonable to put the onus on shoppers.”

Consumer NZ’s latest call comes as part of a larger campaign to end greenwashing in Aotearoa.


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