Senate Inquiry exposes government’s role in corporate greenwashing

On Monday, the Senate Inquiry into Greenwashing highlighted the Australian Government’s role in facilitating corporate greenwashing by failing to certify the “Climate Active” trademark logo.

Companies use this logo, intended to signify environmental responsibility, to showcase their green credentials. However, the absence of official certification raises questions about the authenticity of these claims.

In September 2022, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) initiated a crackdown on greenwashing, prompted by concerns over misleading environmental claims made by businesses.

A subsequent report revealed alarming findings from a sweep of 247 businesses, with 57% found to be making dubious assertions about their environmental efforts. Sectors such as cosmetics, clothing, footwear, and food and drink emerged as significant offenders.

Of particular concern is the revelation that some of Australia’s leading corporations may be engaging in what has been termed “state-sponsored greenwashing.” These companies used the Climate Active certification, endorsed by the government, to portray themselves as carbon neutral. Despite this, the ACCC has yet to approve the program due to confusion surrounding its rules, casting doubt on its legitimacy.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, chair of the Senate Inquiry, expressed dismay at the revelation that the government’s own regulator had not certified its Climate Active trademark. She emphasised the impact of such misleading claims on consumers, urging the need for stronger legislation to prevent deceptive environmental marketing.

“The Senate has kicked off its first day of hearings into the greenwashing inquiry. And already we’ve heard very concerning evidence that the government’s own Climate Active program is participating in greenwashing,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“It’s extraordinary to hear that the ACCC, the government’s own regulator in charge of registering and certifying trademarks, has not certified the government’s own Climate Active trademark. This is outrageous.”

The involvement of major companies like Ampol, Coles, NAB, and Qantas in the Climate Active scheme highlights the widespread nature of this issue. Under the scheme, companies self-report their emissions data in exchange for certification, raising concerns about accountability and transparency.

“We’ve got corporations right across the country relying on this government’s stamp of approval to tell their customers that they have green products or that they are carbon neutral, ” said Senator Hanson-Young.

She said Australian customers are fed up with greenwashing lies and need stronger laws that ban misleading environmental claims to protect Australian consumers and the environment.


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