Govt set to finalise norms for greenwashing, seeks feedback

The practice of greenwashing, however, needs more stringent regulation and mere guidelines may not drive implementation, experts said

Greenwashing refers to making vague, false or unsubstantiated claims related to environment (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To prevent advertisements making misleading or inaccurate claims on good environmental practices or initiatives, the central government is set to finalise guidelines to regulate what is known as greenwashing, according to officials aware of the development.

The draft guidelines are being circulated among civil society and legal organisations and will be finalised after considering public feedback that have to be submitted by March 21. Greenwashing refers to any deceptive or misleading practice, which includes concealing, omitting or hiding relevant information by exaggerating, making vague, false or unsubstantiated environmental claims.

The practice of greenwashing, however, needs more stringent regulation and mere guidelines may not drive implementation, experts said.

The development in India comes after the European Parliament in January outlawed generic environmental claims, including a number of problematic marketing habits related to greenwashing and the early obsolescence of goods that will be added to the list of banned commercial practices in the European Union, according to a January 17 statement.

“While this is a positive step towards preventing greenwashing, the guidelines should promote greater transparency and accountability among advertisers,” said Debadityo Sinha, lead of climate and ecosystems at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a think tank.

“This is an important acknowledgment that greenwashing and veracity of environmental claims are issues that need to be addressed,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legal and policy researcher. “Whether the guidelines, their interpretation and the clauses related to contravention provisions will act as deterrence against greenwashing or will strengthen consumer the interest needs a broader public debate.”

“Regulation of greenwashing represent a promising start but must evolve into strict legal requirements to ensure corporate accountability for actions and claims,” climate activist Harjeet Singh said. “Equally important is educating consumers to recognise genuine sustainability and supporting small businesses in adopting eco-friendly practices.”

The guidelines will apply to all advertisements, according to the circulated draft. In case of any ambiguity or dispute in interpretation of these guidelines, the decision of the Central Authority of Consumer Affairs shall be final, the draft added.

“Environmental claims in advertisements should not only be verified by certificates or evidence, but also accompanied by publicly verifiable information related to corresponding certifications and their methodologies,” Sinha said. “Additionally, proceedings and decisions of the authority regarding non-compliance with the greenwashing guidelines should be prominently displayed on the relevant ministry’s website.”

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