ACM, the Dutch consumers’ authority, has launched an investigation into misleading sustainability claims made by 170 businesses. ACM ordered the companies for revisions of sustainability claims and threatened them with hefty fines.
ACM chief Edwin van Houten specified that 70 clothing firms, 60 energy firms, 40 dairy products have been invited to take a critical revision at their sustainability claims. They started with the three main sectors that people care more about the sustainability claims.
“We are starting with these three sectors because, for consumers, the aspect of sustainability plays a major role in their purchase decisions in these sectors,” Edwin van Houten said in a statement. “Consumers must be able to have confidence in sustainability claims. And businesses with honest claims should not have to face unfair competition from businesses that mislead consumers using misleading claims.”
One energy firm told customers that “the majority of our green power is generated in Netherland”, and ACM found out that the power disclosure label revealed it to be no more than 20%. Moreover, another energy firm told the customers that its performance in the energy transition is “the best”, without giving any basis for comparison
However, the ACM has found that the clothing sector claims for instance a T-shirt is made from organic cotton, but only 50% is made from the actual material. They also mentioned that the clothing sector writes “sustainable choice” on the product without giving an explanation of what makes that clothing sustainable.
Dairy producers have also been urged to clarify their claims, for example misleading CO2 reductions or the sustainability benefits of generating their own power.
The ACM is urging the companies to keep the rules of how they set out their sustainability claims. The next check from the agency will be in June, and if companies are still found to mislead the public they will be fined up to €900,000.