According to a study released by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) on Nov. 16, about half of online products made vague claims of being "eco-friendly" without providing supporting details.
The study on "greenwashing" across e-commerce websites also found that approximately 14% of online products used technical language, making it difficult for consumers to understand or verify the claims.
Greenwashing occurs when a company misleads consumers by presenting their products or practices as more environmentally positive or beneficial than they truly are.
The researchers from the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School said in the report that they assessed products from 100 e-commerce websites.
CCCS said in a press release those claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “eco-friendly”, “green” and “sustainable” were often ambiguous and tend to exaggerate the actual environmental benefits of the product.
The study found that 51% of online products examined in the study made vague claims of being eco-friendly without providing supporting details or elaboration on their assertions. "For example, 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," CCCS added.
Examples of technical jargon used to confuse customers include labelling products made of ABS or EVA plastics as environmentally friendly, even though both are petroleum-based.
CCCS advised suppliers to be specific and to present any supporting information accurately and clearly when making these claims. It added that suppliers should avoid making claims that would "imply or convey an impression that the environmental benefit is more than it is".
It also advised suppliers to use language that is easier for consumers to understand and explain the meaning of technical terms. "To address these and other potential greenwashing conduct by suppliers identified in the NUS Business School study, CCCS is developing a set of guidelines to provide greater clarity on the environmental claims that could amount to unfair practices under the Consumer Protection Act."