Singapore will soon have a set of guidelines governing environmental claims in advertising.

Until recently, environmental claims in advertising in Singapore were governed by legislation such as the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act as well as the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice ("Code") issued by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS).

The Act protects consumers against unfair practices and aims to give consumers additional rights in respect of goods that do not conform to contract. In the context of a greenwashing advertisement, misleading language or overstated environmental claims in an advertisement could be considered a false claim or lead to the consumer being deceived in respect of that good or service.

The Code is a detailed set of guiding principles which seeks to promote a high standard of ethics and self-regulation amongst the relevant groups (e.g. media owners, advertisers, advertising agencies etc.). In particular the Code provides that all advertisements should be “legal, decent, honest and truthful”. If an advertisement infringes the Code, the ASAS may ask the advertiser or advertising agency to either modify the advertisement or withdraw the advertisement.

On the back of a study into greenwashing claims in advertisements carried out by the National University of Singapore Business School, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) is now working on a set of guidelines specifically targeted at greenwashing and environmental claims.

These guidelines will be the first such guidelines in Singapore. Given the sharp rise in awareness of environmental issues (and the accompanying rise in companies changing their practices and/or production processes to become more environmentally friendly), the issuance of these guidelines is timely and appropriate. The CCS will seek views from the public on the guidelines once the draft guidelines have been finalised.

...marketed as “environmentally friendly”, “eco-friendly”, “green”, “sustainable” and “good for the earth” even though the claims could not be verified...

...a product that is labelled “environmentally friendly” on the basis of being made of 10 per cent recycled material may be misleading if it is marketed to give consumers the impression that the product was entirely made out of recycled material.

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