Today's consumers actively seek environmentally friendly choices when selecting goods or services. In 2019, UK consumers spent £41 billion on ethical or sustainable goods and services, quadrupling from 20 years ago. The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have further increased the pace of this already growing, consumer-led focus on sustainability.
In crowded marketplaces, however, it can be hard for consumers to know exactly which environmental claims are trustworthy. With the growing demand for ethical products comes a risk that brands may exaggerate their environmental credentials to increase sales and promote their offerings, a practice known as 'greenwashing'.
In November 2020, the Competition Market Authority’s (CMA) consumer protection arm opened an investigation to assess the extent to which consumers are being misled by environmental claims. The investigation began with an open consultation to better understand what consumers expect from eco-friendly products, and how "green" claims affect their purchasing decisions. The results of the consultation will help inform the publication of detailed guidance for businesses, which is expected to be available in the summer of 2021. Dependent on the CMA's findings, there is also the possibility of updates to relevant consumer protection law.