The government has finalised draft guidelines to prevent 'greenwashing' or false pro-environment claims being made by companies across sectors, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said on Thursday.
The draft guidelines were finalised after discussions with the committee members in a meeting held on January 10.
The committee constituted by the consumer affairs ministry also has member representatives from the industry such as FICCI, CII, Manufacturers Association Information Technology (MAIT), Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and Indian Beauty and Hygiene Association (IBHA).
"We have finalised the draft guidelines and will issue the final guidelines after incorporating few suggestions of the industry members," Singh told PTI.
The draft guidelines clearly define "Greenwashing" and "Environment claims". It also proposes disclosures that would be required to be made by the company while making green claims, said a statement issued by the ministry.
The guidelines also provide that no person should engage in greenwashing. Without proper disclosures, no one is permitted to use vague terms such as 'green', 'eco-friendly', 'eco-consciousness', 'good for the planet', 'cruelty-free', and similar assertions.
The guidelines will be applicable to all advertisements or service providers, product sellers, advertisers, or an advertising agency or endorser whose service was availed for the advertisement of such goods or services.
As per the draft guidelines, all environmental claims should be accurate and should disclose all material information either in the relevant advertisement or communication or by inserting a QR code, or any such technology including web link, which will be linked to relevant information.
While making disclosures in relation to environmental claims, data from research should not be cherry picked to highlight only favourable observations while obscuring others that are unfavourable.
Any person making an environment-related claim should specify whether it refers to the good, manufacturing process, packaging, manner of use of the good or its disposal; or service or the process of rendering the service.
All environmental claims should be backed by verifiable evidence.
In case of comparative environmental claims that compare one product or service to another must be based on verifiable and relevant data that is disclosed to the consumers.
"Specific environmental claims must be supported by credible certification, reliable scientific evidence, and independent third-party verification to maintain their authenticity," the draft guidelines said.
The draft guidelines further provide that aspirational or futuristic environmental claims need to be made with various disclosures. It also provides a 'Guidance Note' for environmental claims with appropriate examples to provide help and guidance to industry.
The penalty for misleading advertisements for greenwashing by companies will be governed as per Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the Guidelines are just in the nature of clarification to the stakeholders, the statement added.