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November 28, 2023

Consumers ready to pay more to avoid greenwashing confusion

Environmental label CO2 neutral
Almost one-third of respondents to the BEUC survey said they did not feel able to distinguish between true or false environmental claims (Photo: Molenira/Envato)

Half of consumers want to buy green products, but they are confused about which claims are genuine and which are greenwashing, show the results of a global survey

More needs to be done to show whether environmental claims and labels are greenwashing or the real deal, according to three-quarters of respondents to a survey by European consumer organisation BEUC. 

One-third of the 1,000 consumers interviewed in 16 countries, largely in the EU but also in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the US, said they did not feel able to distinguish between false or unverified environmental claims and true and verified claims.

Only 3 per cent said they would always be able to distinguish false green claims.

Close to half of the respondents (48 per cent) said they preferred to buy products bearing an environmental label, while two out of five consumers said they would be ready to pay more for a product bearing a verified label.

Almost 70 per cent of the respondents said that public authorities and third-party organisations should pre-approve, verify and authorise green claims.

“Our survey clearly shows consumers are not equipped to identify greenwashing,” said BEUC director-general Monique Goyens in a statement. “It should not be consumers’ job to tell true from false.

“Consumers are open to stricter measures preventing polluting companies from painting their products green. As the COP28 is about to start, international efforts to prevent false green advertising must catch up with companies’ creativity,” she added. 

The EU Ecolabel, the flower symbol that is voluntarily shown on products and services, was known by 29 per cent of survey respondents living in European countries. Of those 29 per cent, 75 per cent declared high or medium trust in the label.

A European Commission survey conducted in September found that 38 per cent of EU citizens recognised the EU Ecolabel. In September, the number of EU products identified using the ecolabel reached the highest ever, the commission said. The label has almost 90,000 certified goods and services in 25 different product areas.

The EU’s proposed Green Claims Directive, which is in the early stages of negotiations, seeks to tackle false environmental claims.

The BEUC report is available to read here.

A service from the Financial Times