Greenwashing: Exploring The Risks Of Misleading Environmental Marketing In The UK, Canada, France And Singapore – Waste Management

Across several jurisdictions, eco-advertising and green
marketing campaigns have become commonplace among businesses of all
sizes and in all sectors. Understandably, advertising the
environmentally-friendly attributes of a product or service –
through slogans, trademarks, performance claims or various other
marketing practices – appeals to consumers’ growing
concerns for the environment and calls for companies to “go

However, positioning products and services as having
environmental benefits that don’t actually exist can raise
myriad legal and reputational concerns. False, misleading,
overstated or unsubstantiated environmental advertising (often
referred to as “greenwashing”) is largely prohibited
under laws and standards that regulate areas of consumer protection
and advertising. Marketing a product as “eco-friendly,”
“safe for the environment,” or using other descriptors
that highlight environmental attributes or benefits that are vague,
exaggerated, deceiving, result in misinterpretations or cannot be
substantiated can lead to legal consequences. As such, regulators
are taking a much tougher stance on greenwashing than ever

The following article explores the regulation of greenwashing in
the UK, Canada and Singapore, as well as regulators’ approach
to greenwashing within these jurisdictions and practical tips on
what to avoid when looking to attract environmentally conscious



In September 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
published its Green Claims Code (Code) and accompanying guidance.
The purpose of this Code and guidance is to help businesses
understand and comply with their responsibilities under existing
consumer protection law when making environmental claims. 

Publication of the Code and guidance followed a review of
hundreds of websites and the “green” claims made on those
websites. The results of the audit were startling, with the CMA
finding that four out of 10 “green” claims made online
could be misleading consumers. The CMA found vague claims and
unclear language such as “eco” and
“sustainable,” it found that businesses were hiding or
omitting information and saw that, in some cases, brands were
making up their own logos, which looked like some kind of third
party verification of their ecological credentials. The CMA’s
concerns with these practices led to the introduction of the

The Code sets out six principles specifying that environmental
claims must:

  1. Be truthful and accurate;

  2. Be clear and unambiguous;

  3. Not omit or hide material information;

  4. Only make fair and meaningful comparisons;

  5. Consider the full lifecycle of the product or their service;

  6. Be substantiated.

These are practical principles that should help businesses make
more compliant environmental claims across all media formats.

The new Code does not prevent businesses from making truthful
environmental claims, but is aimed at letting brands who can tell
substantiated green stories do so without being drowned out by
others who make claims without a basis.

The Code and guidance is not new law. Rather, it flows from the
underlying UK consumer protection laws under the Consumer
Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
(CPRs) and
Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations
(BPRs). The contents of the Code and guidance is also in
keeping with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)’s
rules1 around green claims.


In Canada, the federal Competition Act, Textile
Labelling Act
, and Consumer Packaging and Labelling
contain prohibitions against making false or misleading
representations. The Competition Act also prohibits
representations of the performance, efficacy or length of life of a
product that are not based on adequate and proper testing.
Similarly, Canada’s Trademarks Act carries a
prohibition against making materially false and misleading
statements about the character, quality, quantity, composition,
geographical origin or mode of manufacture, production or
performance of goods or services.

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which is published
and regulated by Canada’s main advertising industry
self-regulating body, Ad Standards, also contains relevant
prohibitions. Under the Ad Standards Code, advertisements must not
contain inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims,
statements, illustrations or representations, and all
representations must be supported by competent and reliable

The Competition Bureau, which enforces the Competition
, Textile Labelling Act, and Consumer
Packaging and Labelling Act
, has published guidelines
regarding the direct application of these laws to greenwashing and
the risks of making false, misleading and unsubstantiated
environmental claims in Canada. Generally, claims highlighting
environmental attributes or benefits that are vague, exaggerated,
deceiving, result in misinterpretations or that cannot be
substantiated, risk violating Canadian law. Of note, the
Competition Bureau recently archived a comprehensive environmental
claims guideline on its website, stating that it does not reflect
the latest standards and evolving environmental concerns. As such,
not only is it important that “green” marketers in Canada
ensure that all environmental claims are true and appropriately
supported, but also that they are aligned with up to date standards
and guidance.


Increasingly, countries around the world, including Singapore,
are introducing safeguards to combat greenwashing. General laws in
Singapore which have relevance to the issue include the

  • The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA),
    which protects consumers against unfair business practices such as
    deceiving or misleading, making of bogus claims, and gaining
    advantages knowing that consumers cannot judiciously understand the
    consequence of the transaction. Aggrieved consumers may lodge a
    complaint with the Competition and Consumer Commission of

  • The Misrepresentation Act, which allows a consumer to
    recoup damages from the merchant (according to contractual
    agreements) following a misrepresentation lead business

  • The Singapore Code of Advertising Practice requires that all
    advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

However, laws and regulations in Singapore do not explicitly
cover greenwashing. Thus, the burden is often on consumers to
determine what constitutes greenwashing. That said, it is often
difficult to prove that certain acts constitute unfair business
practices, or to prove that damage has occurred from
misrepresentation due to greenwashing. There may be a need to
update and clarify the existing laws and regulations in Singapore
to protect consumers and help businesses to avoid greenwashing.

In the finance realm, the greenwashing of environmental, social,
and governance (ESG) investment products to attract investments is
becoming an issue of concern. Various organizations are working on
regulations and standards to curb it, as detailed below:

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) requests banks in
    Singapore to undergo stress tests from 2022, which means that banks
    will have to get a better handle on the climate risks tied to their
    borrowers, customers, and supply chains.

  • The MAS has also devised a blueprint for sustainable investing
    and financing, which includes (1) a Green Finance Industry
    Taskforce (GFIT) taxonomy for Singapore-based financial
    institutions; (2) Project Greenprint, which aims to incorporate
    data and technology to marshal financing
    for ESG projects; and (3) mandatory climate-related
    financial disclosures for companies listed in Singapore.

  • In line with major global banks, DBS, OCBC, and UOB, the three
    major Singapore banks, pledged to stop financing industries linked
    to climate change, such as new coal-fired power projects.

  • On the technology side, Singapore has launched a new public
    artificial intelligence (AI) programme – the National AI
    Programme in Finance in late 2021, which includes an industry-wide
    AI platform, NovA!. NovA! aims to help financial institutions
    better assess companies’ environmental impact and identify
    emerging environmental risks.

  • The IRFS Foundation Trustees announced three new initiatives to
    combat greenwashing: (1) create an International Sustainability
    Standards Board (ISSB) to establish excellent sustainability
    disclosure standards to investors; (2) unify sustainability
    disclosure standards of the Climate Disclosure Standards Board and
    the Value Reporting Foundation; (3) publish mock-up climate and
    general disclosure guidelines.

  • The CFA Institute has implemented a
    global ESG disclosure standard for investment products to
    safeguard investors against greenwashing.

  • The Board of the International Organization of Securities
    Commissions (IOSCO) launched a set of recommendations to
    regulate ESG-related products, as well as to provide financial
    and investor education in the realm of sustainability.


In France, different legal mechanisms regulate greenwashing

The Consumer Code provides for a general provision prohibiting
misleading commercial practices, including misleading advertising.
This is most commonly based on false allegations and misleading
information as to the essential characteristics of a good or a
service, including those comprising greenwashing marketing.

The Climate and Resilience Law was also recently enacted, adding
a specific provision according to which the misrepresentation of
“the scope of the advertiser’s commitments, in particular
with respect to the environment, the nature, the process or the
reason for the sale or the provision of services” can qualify
as a misleading practice.

Violation of such provisions is punishable by imprisonment of up
to two years and a fine of €300,000.

The law also provides for a name and shame mechanism through
which a Court may order that its decision be communicated to the
public by any means.

The Climate and Resilience Law also requires the Audiovisual and
Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (“Autorité
de Régulation de la Communication Audiovisuelle et
Numérique”) to promote codes of conduct called
“climate contracts” to forbid commercial communications
that favourably present the environmental impact of goods or
services that actually have a negative effect on the

These climate contracts are entered into with different
advertising actors and contain five clauses relating to:

  • What is measured;

  • What is produced;

  • What is promoted;

  • What is monitored; and

  • What they raise awareness about.

Moreover, under the French Environmental Code, the affirmation,
in an advertisement, that a good or a service is carbon neutral or
the use of any formulation of equivalent signification or scope is
prohibited, unless the advertiser makes information on greenhouse
gas emissions easily available.

The violation of such provision is punishable by a fine of
€20,000 for natural persons and €100,000 for legal



Undoubtedly, the Code and the CMA’s approach to
environmental claims will influence other UK regulators as to when
and where they choose to take enforcement action. If a business
does not follow the Code principles, then it is more likely to be
the subject of action from the CMA, as well as Trading Standards,
sector-specific regulators and/or the ASA.

The CMA and Trading Standards have broad enforcement powers in
relation to the underlying consumer law and, on top of that, the UK
government is also consulting on potential additional powers for
the CMA, which may include the power to levy fines without pursuing
a business through the courts.

The ASA can take action against misleading advertisements and
businesses could face legal action from consumers themselves for
breaches of consumer protection law.

We have not yet seen regulatory action from the CMA since the
introduction of the Code, but the ASA in particular has been active
in this area over the past couple of years, and notably since the
beginning of 2022 (when the Code took effect). Recently, the ASA
has considered the following complaints about environmental

  • In April 2022, the ASA found claims made by Tier (an electric
    scooter hire company) misleadingly implied that electric scooters
    caused no environmental damage2. Tier had used the
    following slogan: “Be environmentally … friendly. Take a
    TIER,” with smaller text stating
    “#changemobilityforgood.” Tier explained their electric
    scooter service could be described as environmentally friendly
    because in their operations they used electric vans and electric
    cargo bikes for servicing (which had lowered Tier’s carbon
    emissions), renewable energy for charging, recycled materials in
    production and decommissioned scooters were recycled. They also
    provided documentation noting their production facilities were
    certified to minimize environmental risks and results of the
    lifecycle assessment of their electric scooters in Berlin. The ASA
    ultimately treated the claim “be environmentally
    friendly” as an absolute claim (rather than a comparison), and
    considered it would be interpreted as meaning the Tier electric
    scooter caused no environmental damage over the full lifecycle of
    the scheme. The ASA did not think Tier could substantiate

  • In February 2022, the ASA considered complaints made about
    Innocent’s claims that drinking its smoothies was good for the
    environment3. Innocent defended the complaints and said
    it was not making any specific environmental claims in the ad and,
    indeed, weren’t making any claims at all but were rather
    talking about their company’s ambitions and aspirational
    journey which they wanted the customer to join them on. Innocent
    also said that despite that, they were making strides towards using
    only a minimum amount of plastic while also supporting recycling.
    So, in their view, they did have some grounds to make environmental
    claims. The ASA disagreed and found that Innocent was making claims
    in its advertisements and considered that Innocent had created an
    impression that its products had a positive environmental impact.
    In order to support that impression, Innocent needed to hold
    evidence showing that its drinks have a net positive impact on the
    environment across their whole lifecycle. The ASA did not find that
    the steps Innocent had explained it was taking were sufficient to
    support a net positive impact across the whole lifecycle of the
    products. Therefore, the advertisements were ruled to be
    misleading, meaning they could not be run again. 

  • In January 2022, a complaint about an advertisement for a
    beverages company which featured the headline
    poster also featured small print that stated “Bottle made from
    recycled plastic, excludes cap and label” and pack shots of
    the bottles, with a recycling logo and the text “I’M 100%
    RECYCLED PLASTIC”. The ASA considered that consumers would
    understand that all components of the bottle were made entirely
    from recycled materials. Even with the small print, which the ASA
    thought may be overlooked by consumers, the qualification was
    insufficient to counter the strong impression and the ASA ruled the
    advertisement misleading.

  • In September 2020, claims made in a TV advertisement for Quorn
    Thai Wondergrains were considered by the ASA5. Quorn
    claimed their product could reduce carbon emissions, and they used
    on-screen text that stated, “Quorn Wonder Grains. Awarded
    Carbon Reduction Footprint certification by the Carbon Trust for
    the full life cycle of the product. See for
    details.” Quorn had an agreement with the independent
    certification body which benchmarked their carbon emissions and
    they had a commitment registered with that independent body to
    reduce those emissions over time. The ASA concluded that Quorn
    hadn’t worded their claims specifically enough, with consumers
    likely understanding the claims to mean that if they consume the
    product, they themselves would be reducing their emissions as
    compared to a competitor product, which Quorn was not able to

The ASA has also published specific guidance on misleading
environmental claims and social responsibility in December
20216 and are enquiring into the use of green claims in
different sectors (including aviation, heating/energy, automotive,
waste and animal-based food). In particular, the ASA has made it
know it will be conducting research into consumer understanding of
“carbon neutral” and “net zero” claims –
claims made that touch on heating/energy and transport, waste
claims (e.g. “recyclable””recycling”,
“biodegradable””compostable” and “plastic
alternative” claims) and meat-based, dairy and other forms of
food sustainability issues.


Canada’s Competition Bureau actively investigates
environmental claims and enforces the rules against making
representations that are false, misleading or not based on adequate
and proper testing. In a recent news release, the Competition
Bureau noted that, along with an increase in “green”
products, there has been an increase false, misleading or
unsupported environmental claims that are illegal in Canada. The
release encourages consumers who believe that a business may have
made a false, misleading or unsupported environmental claim to
report it to the Competition Bureau.

Notable examples of the Competition Bureau’s enforcement of
greenwashing in Canada include a recent $3 million penalty imposed
as part of a settlement agreement reached with a company found to
have made false or misleading recycling claims in respect of
consumer goods, as well as a $15 million penalty imposed as part of
a settlement agreement regarding (among other practices at issue)
misleading marketing and advertising of vehicles as green and
environmentally friendly. 

Ad Standards also administers complaint procedures for
inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading environmental
representations. Consumers and competitors can submit complaints to
Ad Standards, which, if accepted, are managed in accordance with
the Ad Standards Consumer Complaint Procedure or Advertising
Dispute Procedure, respectively. Ad Standards’ decisions
regarding prohibited greenwashing may result in a request to amend
or withdraw the offending advertising, as well as a published
summary of the decision (which under certain circumstances may
identify advertiser).

Greenwashing is an evolving area of regulation in Canada, with
potential risks involving substantial penalties and reputational
harm. Businesses must be careful to ensure their practices are not
offside the applicable legislation and guidelines when marketing
their products or services in Canadian jurisdictions.


Greenwashing, the act of making false or misleading claims about
the environmental benefits of products or services, is not a new
phenomenon in Singapore.

One recent, high-profile example involves the Alliance to End
Plastic Waste (AEPW), a Singapore-based not-for-profit
organization. In 2019, AEPW claimed to be spending $1.5B USD on
cleaning up plastic waste in developing countries. However,
Reuters investigation in 2021 discovered that
one of its flagship initiatives, Renew Oceans, failed to dredge the
Ganges river in India of substantial plastic waste, despite
publishing targets on its website to collect 45 tonnes of plastic
trash from the river in 2019 and 450 tonnes in 2020. In
addition, AEPW and the large oil and chemical companies backing it
were allegedly planning to ramp-up plastic production. According
to a report from Belgian-Dutch NGO Recycling Netwerk
(CRCT) in 2019
, many of the 28 members forming the alliance,
including major companies had scheduled future billion-dollar
investments in the expansion of plastic production.

Greenpeace has called AEPW an industry scam designed
to allow for endless plastic production. AEPW responded
to the criticism by explaining that Renew Oceans’ termination
occurred due to complications caused by COVID-19. It also published
an article, “Why proper waste management is more important
than going plastic-free,” to argue against means of reducing
plastic production. These claims themselves received further
criticism for being unfounded, for example an ocean clean-up
organisation commented that “(the article) made AEPW seem like
a plastic industry lobby group.”

Although laws to combat greenwashing in Singapore may not be
perfect at this stage, the country is working towards various
measures to curb the practice and help consumers to rebuild trust.
Sellers should aim to follow widely-accepted best practices to
ensure their company is not greenwashing, such as making clear,
easy to understand claims, backing up those claim with data, using
honest statements about practices and plans, and avoiding
misleading images on ads and packages. It is also advisable to
follow Singapore-specific regulations, such as the disclosure
requirements by MAS.


In France, there is very little case law with respect to
greenwashing marketing. Nonetheless, some advertisers have been
sued and condemned for greenwashing before French Courts:

  • In 2013, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the interim relief
    judge’s decision which held, concerning an advertisement of a
    vehicle in nature, outside of any traffic lane, that “by
    leading the public to believe that the possession of this type of
    vehicle is a permit to do anything in nature, the dissemination of
    this type of advertising obviously promotes behaviour that is
    contrary to the protection of the environment and the preservation
    of natural resources […]. It appears that the existence of an
    unlawful disturbance caused by the broadcasting of the disputed
    advertisements is clear, a disturbance that the interim relief
    judge can put an end to”. This decision is interesting, as it
    is not grounded on misleading advertisement but on a provision
    prohibiting the circulation of vehicles outside the roads
    classified in the public road domain, in order to preserve natural

  • On March 2, 2022, Greenpeace France and other not-for-profit
    organizations filed a lawsuit against TotalEnergies alleging that
    TotalEnergies’ objectives to achieve a carbon neutral ambition
    by 2050, are misleading and solely for marketing purposes. This is
    the first action of its kind in France, and it will be interesting
    to know the outcome and understand French Courts’ position on

Beyond legal sanctions, the Advertising Ethics Board (“Jury
Déontologique de la Publicité”) is also equipped
to issue opinions on the compliance of an advertisement. The Board
reviews complaints from natural or legal persons, and issues an
opinion which can be used as evidence in a litigation:

  • On February 21, 2022, the Board held that the advertisement
    claiming that the elimination of over-wrapping of water bottles
    reduced the plastic used by 90% was mathematically false, and
    therefore contrary to the rules of advertising ethics.


When looking to produce and use ads, slogans, logos or packaging
that highlights the environmental attributes of a product or
service, the following tips should be kept in mind to help avoid
accusations of greenwashing and associated legal and reputational

  • DO follow the published regulatory

  • DO remember that green claims can relate to
    products and services, processes or the activities of a business as
    a whole. They can be directed at consumers or businesses;

  • DO remember that green claims can be express
    or implied and that all aspects of the materials will be relevant,
    including copy, imagery, overall presentation, supporting
    information, etc; 

  • DO ensure that claims are accurate and clear
    to understand;

  • DO NOT use broad or absolute terms such as
    “green” “sustainable” and
    “eco-friendly” without explanation, especially in
    instances where the product or service as a whole does not have a
    positive environmental impact or no adverse impact;

  • DO be specific with claims;

  • DO NOT make representations that are not
    substantiated and verifiable; claims must be based on robust

  • DO NOT be vague or ambiguous; claims about the
    environmental benefits of a product or service should be

  • DO NOT make claims about a business’
    environmental ambitions unless the claims are in proportion to the
    business’ actual efforts, there is a clear, documented and
    verifiable plan (which is detailed and realistic) as to how the
    business is going to meet those goals and the business monitors
    progress against that plan;

  • DO NOT use claims or other representations
    that result in misinterpretations or could mislead;

  • DO NOT hide information about the
    environmental impact of a product or service or only cherry-pick
    the positive environmental aspects;

  • DO NOT exaggerate the environmental

  • DO ensure claims are based on the full
    lifecycle of the product or service, unless the claim is worded
    explicitly to link to only part of the lifecycle;

  • DO ensure that if qualifying information
    applies to the claim, it is set out clearly and does not contradict
    the main claim;

  • DO NOT rely on space constraints as a

  • DO ensure information that cannot fit into the
    claim is easily accessible;

  • DO NOT claim features or benefits that are
    necessary standard features or legal requirements as environmental

  • DO only make fair and meaningful comparisons,
    with language setting out the basis for the comparison;

  • DO not imply that a product or service is
    endorsed by a third-party organization if it isn’t;

This article was co-authored by Vivian Wei Cheng a patent attorney
working in the offices of JurisAsia LLC, with whom Gowling WLG has
an exclusive association. 


1. UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct &
Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) and UK Code of
Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code).

2. Please see the full decision here:

3. Please see the full decision here:

5. Please see the full decision here:

6. Available here:

Read the original article on

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *