The five ground rules for honest sustainability claims are as follows: ACM has published guidelines that explain these rules of thumb using various examples. ACM invites companies and other organizations to share their thoughts on these guidelines and submit their opinions. You can do this until October 20, 2020. Based on these results, ACM will select the industries in which it will start applying the rules for misleading sustainability claims. Companies that make false or misleading sustainability claims can be fined by ACM. Sustainability is one of ACM`s top priorities in 2021. Following a public consultation, ACM established the rules of thumb for sustainability claims that companies use when selling their goods and services. With these definitive rules of thumb, ACM wants companies to properly and fully inform consumers about the sustainability attributes of their goods and services. This will help increase consumer confidence in sustainable products. As a result, markets for durable goods and services are able to mature properly. Businesses need to provide consumers with accurate and verifiable sustainability information so that consumers can properly compare goods and services and businesses can compete fairly.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, member of ACM`s Board of Directors, comments: «Over the past few months, we have been discussing our rules of thumb with various market players. These discussions have helped us streamline and clarify several points of the guidelines. Correct sustainability requirements are important for everyone involved. We will now begin to apply the rules. Edwin van Houten, Head of ACM`s Consumer Division, comments: «For consumers and businesses looking to contribute to a more sustainable society, it is important that sustainability information is accurate and verifiable. These rules of thumb clearly indicate what the sustainability requirements are. If businesses and consumers encounter false or misleading sustainability claims, they have the opportunity to submit them to us. Following a public consultation, the guidelines of the Dutch Consumer and Market Authority (ACM) on sustainability information have been finalised. With these guidelines, ACM uses five rules of thumb to explain how companies can prevent their sustainability claims from being unclear, false or misleading to consumers. ACM will apply these rules of thumb when applying the rules. ACM has established five rules of thumb for businesses: consumers who want to contribute to a more sustainable society often opt for sustainable products.
Companies are taking advantage of this trend by claiming that their products are sustainable. However, their claims often contain false, vague or misleading information. This was demonstrated by an online study on sustainability claims that ACM conducted in collaboration with other European regulators in the CPC network and also with other international regulators in the ICPEN network. In this study, ACM looked at sustainability claims in various industries such as food, apparel, cosmetics, and home appliances. In the study, ACM saw examples where: Sustainability is an important topic for ACM in many ways. One of the most important priorities on ACM`s agenda, for example, is the energy transition. In addition, ACM took the following steps: ACM received responses from 28 market participants during the public consultation. In addition, ACM also had discussions with companies, professional associations, social organizations and certification bodies. As a result of these discussions, ACM has amended and clarified the guidelines in several areas. For example, information on visual sustainability claims, certification labels and claims on organic products has been revised and several examples have been explained in the guidelines.
ACM has now finalized the guidelines. In almost 50% of cases, regulators doubted the accuracy of the claims. Two of the three requests did not contain sufficient information to determine whether they were accurate. ACM believes that consumers are increasingly considering sustainability aspects in their purchasing decisions. It is therefore very interesting for companies to advertise their products and services as «sustainable». However, consumers are not able to verify these claims themselves. You must be able to believe that the companies` claims are true. False or misleading claims (also known as «greenwashing») damage consumer confidence and lead to unfair competition with companies that do things right.