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CCCS to fund study on greenwashing in e-commerce websites

Five in 10 online products have vague environmental claims.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has awarded a grant to researchers from the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore Business School to conduct a study on greenwashing in e-commerce websites.

CCCS defines greenwashing in online marketing as “supplier's conduct that deceives or misleads consumers into believing that the supplier's practices or goods and services are more environmentally positive or have greater environmental benefits than is indeed the case.”

Data provided by the commission showed that 51% of environmental claims in online products were vague, with insufficient elaboration or details to support the claims.

Some (14%) online product claims also use technical language, making it difficult for consumers to understand or verify the claim.

CCCS considers claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “eco-friendly”, “green”, “sustainable”, “good for the Earth”, “natural”, “conscious”, and “responsible” vague and prone to overstatement or exaggeration as to the actual environmental benefits of the product.

“A claim from a supplier that its product is ‘environmentally friendly’ on the basis that the product is made of 10% recycled material may be misleading if it is marketed to give consumers the impression that the product was made of 100% recycled material,” the commission said.

In making environmental claims, CCS advises suppliers to:

  1. Be specific in their environmental claims, presenting any qualifying or supporting information accurately and clearly alongside such claims;  
  2. Avoid making claims that would imply or convey an overall impression that the environmental benefit of the product is more than it is (e.g. degree of recycled material used); and 
  3. Ensure that all environmental claims can be substantiated with valid and credible evidence

CCCS has also advised against the use of technical jargon in claims like “made of high-quality ABS eco-friendly material.”

In this regard, CCCS advises suppliers, when making environmental claims, to use language that is easier for consumers to understand and explain the meaning or implications of technical terms. 

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