GREEN CLAIMS INVESTIGATION
GREEN CLAIMS INVESTIGATION
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Our experts pull the chain on greenwash claims by big-name toilet cleaner brands
Our scientists felt that the toilet cleaners we gave them (see below) all made at least one green claim that wasn’t proven by the manufacturer’s evidence. In some cases, ingredients in the eco products may biodegrade a little faster than those in standard products.
Our experts challenge the evidence behind green claims on big-name household products
any of you are sceptical about green claims – 80% of you don’t think they are always true – and our research shows that you may have a point. We gave 14 everyday items with eco messages on them to a panel of experts to find out whether the claims were justified. Our experts thought that, while all made some genuine claims, almost half of the ‘eco’ laundry tablets, toilet cleaners and nappies made claims that the companies didn’t support with convincing evidence. As a result of our research, Tesco has agreed to alter its packaging.
OUR RESEARCH Our experts assessed individual claims on product packaging against evidence supplied by manufacturers. A product’s whole life cycle has an impact on the environment and this is often impossible to assess from the claims alone. So we’ve defined ‘greenwash’ here as any claims that weren’t proven. Our panel included Dr John Hoskins, a toxicologist and former scientific advisor to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, and Dr John Emsley, a chemist who has written extensively about the impact of chemicals in everyday items. Our green communications expert is John Twitchen, who runs green communications agency Sauce Consultancy.
When companies make clear green claims, it helps consumers make eco-choices with confidence. But our experts concluded that many of the companies did not provide enough evidence to back up their claims and thought that some were exaggerated. This makes it hard for people to choose. Which? will continue to work to make sure that companies make clear and meaningful claims. 18 | May 2010
go through a waste treatment plant to remove harmful chemicals. However, the eco products may be better if you have a septic tank. All the toilet cleaners also made some genuine claims – all use renewable, plant based ingredients.
KEY CLAIMS: ‘Naturally…’ Its cleaning ingredients are derived from plant extracts. It contains no phosphates and leaves no hazardous chemical residues. VERDICT: Some claims are greenwash. Regular marketleading toilet cleaners don’t contain phosphates or leave hazardous chemical residues either, say our scientists.
KEY CLAIMS: It’s specially formulated to limit the impact on the environment. VERDICT: Some claims are greenwash. Our scientists had reservations about the claim ‘formulated to limit the impact on the environment’. There was no convincing evidence to show that it had a different impact on aquatic life than the market leader.
ECOVER KEY CLAIMS: It biodegrades rapidly and is ecological. VERDICT: Some claims are greenwash. Our scientists had reservations about the claims, as they found no convincing evidence to show that it had a different impact on aquatic life than the market leader once it had been through a waste treatment plant.
KEY CLAIMS: It’s kinder to the environment and is biodegradable. VERDICT: Some claims lack evidence. Though it has the independently assured EU Eco label, our scientists say there was no convincing evidence to show that it had a different impact on aquatic life than the market leader.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: PIXELEYES, DENNIS PEDERSEN
However, our scientists felt that there was no convincing evidence to show that th