New Green Claims Code is an opportunity for retailers to build brands

New guidelines for how businesses make environmental claims should be seen as an opportunity and not a challenge, according to Zoe Brimelow, brand director of packaging manufacturer and consultancy Duo

The Green Claims Code has been published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and provides businesses with guidance to make sure the environmental claims they make are genuine and not misleading.

The new Code is based on existing consumer law, meaning it risks causing some apathy amongst retailers and brands. Is it simply more bureaucracy and red tape? Is it another layer of timely and expensive due diligence to make sure everything is above board? Do employees require training and educating on the new guidelines?

Doubt and frustration amongst retailers can seem even more understandable, as failure to comply with the new guidance can lead to court proceedings. This could also involve retailers having to pay redress to any consumers harmed by a breach of consumer protection laws.

Considering these points in the context of supply chain delays, rising raw material and energy costs and ongoing Brexit adjustments to cross-border trading, it’s quite easy to view the Green Claims Code as another unwelcome challenge.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, as the Code can create opportunity for retailers to increase sales and build brand loyalty amongst a growing generation of sustainability-minded consumers.

Green Claims Code

Principles of the Code

The Green Claims Code has been launched in response to rising consumer demand for products and services that are less harmful to the environment or have a positive effect on it. The Government and CMA recognise that, as part of this growing demand, consumers want to make more informed choices about how they spend their money and how sustainable messaging impacts their purchasing.

To support consumers, the Code sets out six principles for companies to ensure their sustainability communications are truthful and accurate, clear, and unambiguous, do not hide or omit information, make fair and meaningful comparisons, consider the full life cycle of a product or service, and are fully substantiated.

The introduction of these consumer-led guidelines will help ensure that marketing collateral and statements, symbols, logos, graphics, colours, and product brand names used to communicate green credentials are all done so with accuracy and integrity. This is a positive step towards ending greenwashing and provides opportunities for retailers who are investing in ethical, sustainable practices to better engage consumers. It also reinvigorates the power of packaging, especially during the all-important ‘unboxing’ moment.

Importance of packaging

Packaging, and especially that used during eCommerce delivery, is increasingly commanding shopper attention. It is one of the most consumer-facing parts of a supply chain and has become something of a barometer for the environmental credentials of a retailer. People are thinking more about the materials that their products arrive in, which is why recent years have seen packaging evolve to feature ever more sophisticated sustainability messaging.

The rollout of the Green Claims Code ensures this on-package messaging, whether its logos or statements, carries more credence. There will be more believability amongst consumers about green claims, which will help enhance the feeling of goodwill even before they’ve opened their order. Creating a strong feeling of positivity through meaningful reassurance about green credentials heightens the pleasure of unboxing, meaning the moment is more likely to be shared positively via social media.

For retailers keen to seize the new opportunity to build reputations amongst consumers resentful of greenwashing, they will have to be innovative with their packaging and ensure it fully embraces the principles of the new Code. They will have to go beyond packaging aesthetics to ensure sustainability is embraced throughout design and functionality.

Innovation may involve utilising the growing trend of QR codes to digitise packaging. This is something we’ve supported leading retailers with. They realise sustainable, ethical ways of working are fast evolving and it is less carbon intensive to keep consumers up to date with changes through QR codes that enable online communications, than risking waste through updating and reprinting packaging.

Packaging purpose is being influenced heavily by sustainability. As well as the use of completely renewable and recyclable mailbag materials such as GreenPE, we’re working with retailers to optimise designs to better fit with lower-carbon lifestyles. We’ve developed delivery packaging that can be resealed and reused to return items, which also features carry handles to prove easier for shoppers to handle whilst walking or cycling. Consumers appreciate that this form of design truly embodies sustainability, as they can physically see green credentials in practice. It makes what they’re reading on-package – or via a QR code – even more meaningful.

Sustainability is accelerating changes in how people shop, and the Green Claims Code is another step forward towards more responsible and environmentally conscious consumerism. It’s an opportunity for retailers to authentically share how they are reducing their impact on the planet and packaging provides a perfect starting point for this.