Sustainable Choice CEO Kiarne Treacy on the ACCC’s statement and combatting greenwashing

by Sustainable Choice 26/09/2022

Thought Starters

Last week, the Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) gave a speech at the SMH Sustainability Summit regarding the dangers of greenwashing. The danger is very real. Over the past week I’ve been reading the commentary, and it has highlighted a distinct lack of healthy discourse as to what greenwashing really is – and the ramifications that it has had on both consumers and businesses.

Consumer trust in tangible, sustainable solutions is a precious, and limited resource. Erosion of this trust has immense consequences. How can people make more informed choices, when the quality of that information is being constantly called into question? I believe that it should be simple for people to know where to find reputable resources, and how to vote with their wallet and build the demand that collectively impacts sustainable change. 

We’re currently seeing an unprecedented push for businesses to transition towards sustainability, whether it’s to meet government requirements, shareholder and consumer demand or because it’s just the right thing to do. Sadly, we’re seeing more and more brands choosing to stay silent, either for fear of accusations of greenwashing – or to avoid the backlash of not meeting the unrealistic expectations of activists. 

At Sustainable Choice we agree wholeheartedly with all the points outlined by ACCC, and stand by our commitments to help reduce the risks of greenwashing through the design, structure and operations of our platform.

As a business, we’ve never been in a better place to support the ACCC’s agenda and are turning our attention to ensuring the product is up to the task. We want to create a transparent, accessible and unified platform that people and businesses alike can participate in. Mobilising a productive conversation, and helping both sides make more informed, ethical choices. 

Sustainable Choice is a hub of information, poised to live in alignment with these latest guidelines recommended by the ACCC: 

We ask all brands to specify in clear terms exactly what makes each of their products responsible on every product page.

Our terms of service require all brands to post only factual, current information and ask that they source any claims that they make.

We’re impartial! On Sustainable Choice, information is presented in the exact same way – regardless of who the brand is, or what they offer. 

Our members have made a declaration of transparency.  Each profile specifies the brand’s sustainability mission, their commitments past, present and future, and any actions that they are currently taking.  

Rather than trying to fit all the information on the product label, brands can include a Sustainable Choice QR code that takes people right to their profile, product or disposal page. 

What’s next?

The ACCC will soon be commencing an internet sweep of various environmental claims made by Australian businesses. Sustainable Choice will be doing the same – ensuring that the information we host is kept current and meets our overall objectives of making it easier for consumers to make informed choices. 

Additionally, in the coming months we are going to be working hard to more closely align with the ACCC’s position, and to help reduce the risk of greenwashing by:

  1. Creating frameworks for consistency in the language used by brands across the entire platform and clarifying potentially ambiguous terms like ‘biodegradable’, and ‘recyclable’. 
  2. Allowing brands to disclose, tag, or highlight which individual aspects of the product are actually more sustainable, and how. So it’s made clear if a claim only relates to one aspect of the product or product life cycle. 
  3. Make substantiated claims easier to capture for brands, and simpler to understand for consumers – whether through reliable scientific reports, reputable third-party certification, or any other forms of evidence. 

As the world evolves, we’re pledging to evolve with it. So watch this space and let’s work together to alleviate the pain points stopping businesses from getting started on their sustainability journey. 

Kiarne Treacy

CEO, Sustainable Choice

We are calling on the world’s brands to publish their environmental credentials and their sustainability roadmap, initiatives and impact publicly for all people to access and understand.

Read the full ACCC Transcript here

Check out our feature in the inaugural Forbes Australia publication here

by Sustainable Choice