The Costly Business of Making Flimsy Sustainability Claims

In a world where citizen journalism is the norm and making one wrong business decision can cause irreversible reputational and financial damage, it’s crucial to ensure any sustainability claims can be fully supported.

Sustainability is a hot topic in the food industry, and rightly so. A New Scientist article (published in September 2021) highlighted the impact that our diets have on climate change — with food production making up over a third (37%) of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Many established brands are already making strides to be more sustainable with support on initiatives from organisations like The Carbon Trust, while new players are continuing to enter the market with sustainable values at their very core.

What claims can be made?

In order to promote your sustainable credentials, you first have to be recognised for your sustainability efforts.

Perhaps the most recognised and important certification organisations in the sustainability arena are The Carbon Trust, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and B-Lab. All trusted and well-recognised, they run the footprint logo scheme currently seen on labels and offer tools and assessments that help companies become more sustainable in their behaviours year-on-year.

Other schemes like The Fairtrade Foundation and The Soil Association also offer certification and increase awareness for brands, but to really cement your commitment to sustainability on a deeper level, the above three organisations will be of greater value.

When a company is aware of its true carbon impact on the world, it may choose to become carbon neutral by reducing emissions further still, and/or by funding the equivalent amount of carbon savings in the world, also known as carbon offsetting (such as planting trees).

Your food label checking service provider or UK food labelling company will be able to support you in promoting your sustainability claims legally, to the people who matter most to your business.

· Product Carbon Fingerprinting | Overseen by The Carbon Trust, this involves measuring, reducing, and communicating the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services. The carbon reduction label programme is managed by the carbon label company, a division of The Carbon Trust

· B Corporation | The status requires rigorous evidence-based data to ascertain the sustainability of a business. It’s a broader assessment than many certification schemes, in much the same way that the OECD’s Sustainability Development Goal aims to be a tool to allow businesses to become more sustainable over time

· The Green Claims Code | Launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the code allows companies to check if the green claims they wish to make are permitted and acceptable. The Code demands that claims must be clear, substantiated, up-to-date, and wholly accurate, with strong evidence that incorporates all aspects of the product and its environment (from growth or creation through to disposal)

· The CMA is in an education phase with the green claims message, but from January 2022, legal action will be used more vigorously for cases of unsubstantiated sustainability claims.

The risk of making unsubstantiated claims

It’s risky business to make unsubstantiated sustainability claims. There are plenty of knowledgeable consumers, journalists, and activists who will not always take what you claim at face value but will look deeper into your actions. Your food consultants UK will be able to protect your business from this by ensuring complete compliance from the get-go.

The Competition and Markets Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority have stated that it intends to investigate green claims and act where the consumer has been misled — enforcement action which can cause irreversible damage to a brand both financially, and reputationally.

Regardless of the size of your brand or business, or how successful your product is now, making sure you take appropriate steps to provide clear and accurate information to your consumers is paramount.

If you need any support on sustainability claims, or on any aspect of compliance in your product development process, contact a member of the Ashbury food consultants UK team today — we’d be happy to help.

 

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