Greenwashing: Making and interpreting environmental claims

Greenwashing is a term we have heard much more frequently in recent years. It is used to describe the practice of making misleading claims or overstating the environmental performance of a product or service.

Gina Rudkin, Axil’s Head of Sustainability and Zero Waste discusses the challenges around making and interpreting environmental or green claims.

‘Customers are increasingly demanding transparency to inform their buying habits and they want to play their part in making sustainable choices with lower environmental impacts. However, a recent CMA study estimates around 40% of green claims made online could be misleading. With the new powers of the CMA to issue fines of up to 10% turnover and the recent examples of high profile brands being held to account by the ASA over their Green Claims, anyone making claims about their products and services should know how to do it transparently and accurately.

It’s important to recognise that Greenwashing is not always intentional, in fact it is highly likely a significant proportion of business fall foul of greenwashing completely unintentionally.’


Whether intentional or accidental, providing false or misleading information can risk the banning of adverts by the ASA and significant fines by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), which will undoubtably be damaging to a company’s brand and reputation.

Some of the common pitfalls can arise from simply using generic or ambiguous terminology like ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ & even ‘recyclable‘.

The rise in the use of bonded multi-material or composite packaging in recent years has in itself created complex packaging which can take years or decades for the specialist recycling technology and infrastructure to catch up, if at all, whilst often marketed as fully recyclable. Often the ability to be recycled does not match the reality of the recycling options and collection systems available.

In September 2022 the CMA launched new guidance on making green claims Environmental claims on goods and services ( along with a Green Claims Code aimed at SME’s Green Claims Code – Check your environmental claims are genuine to help businesses with their sustainability claims.


Its good practice before making any claims to robustly question…

  • Can I evidence and substantiate this claim?
  • What data do I have to evidence & substantiate it?
  • Does my claim only apply to part of the product or the whole of the product?
  • Have I compared like to like products?
  • Can I use external certification to help substantiate my claim?

Data from waste management activities can often feed into wider public and shareholder sustainability reporting so it’s important to work with a provider that provides transparent and accurate data. At Axil, data is seen as key to optimising services, managing risk and identifying opportunities across our client portfolios.

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