Behind environmental claims on plastic products

2 minutes read
July 1 , 2021

SQ Consult examined for ECOS the environmental claims made on 82 everyday plastic items used around the globe.

Our analysis revealed that nearly half of environmental claims on plastic products could be misleading or supported by weak evidence. Our report has elaborated recommendations to policy makers, as well as to manufacturers and retailers, to labels, standards and certification schemes, and to consumers organisations. 


What can be done to put an end to unreliable ‘green claims’?

Eliminate all loose and stretchable definitions in legislation and standards

Instead, green claims on reusability, refillability, recyclability, compostability, biodegradability, and recycled- and bio-based content of plastic products should be checked against a robust checklist, such as ECOS Ideal Claims Checklist.

Set clear rules in legislation about what can and what cannot be claimed

More clarity should be provided thanks to the development of a list of banned green claims, as well as one specifying the environmental claims allowed – including a harmonised method to substantiate these.

Strengthen enforcement of legislation and sanctions against greenwashing

Market surveillance should be more robust to make sure that only good commercial practices take place. At the same time, consumers should be able to easily and systematically report potentially misleading claims on products. Finally, economic and reputational sanctions against non-compliant companies should be strengthened.

Make sustainable products the norm

Policymakers should use and further extend the combination of push-pull mechanisms by putting in place mandatory product environmental labelling alongside ecodesign requirements for plastic products. It goes without saying that the issue needs to be addressed: consumers deserve reliable and credible information in order to be able to play their part in the green transition. Companies wishing to boast about the environmental performance of products must do so by providing people with full and frank information. Only this way will brands build consumer trust, enable fair comparison with competitors, and genuinely help protect the environment.

Our findings and recommendations are further elaborated in a public report by ECOS.

Download the public report here

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SQ Consult supports its clients in understanding and evaluating the changes sustainability practices demand from society and the implications they have for business.

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Manisha Gulati

Our expert

Manisha Gulati

Economist who specializes in the areas of energy, climate change, low carbon development, and resources nexus, with over 15 years of experience in policy advisory, research and capacity building.

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