ARCHIVED—Guidelines for Environmental Labelling
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This document has been developed in partnership and consultation with associations representing public interest groups, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and advertisers. A list of participants is included in Appendix 1.
Canadian consumers are concerned about the environmental effects of materials that are being used in the products and services they purchase. This concern has resulted in new selection criteria being applied: consideration for the environmental effect of materials as well as for the environmental behaviour of companies that produce or use these materials. Faced with this trend, industry has responded with what is known as "Green Marketing" or environmental labelling and advertising.
Green marketing empowers consumers to translate their growing environmental awareness into practical environmental action. For industry, the purchasing power of well- informed consumers provides the incentive to develop materials and processes that place less burden on the environment. However, this market dynamic is predicated on the availability of objective, credible and truthful information which can be readily acquired and understood. With the emergence of a broad range of descriptors, logos, vignettes and other representations used to describe or imply environmental features of consumer products and services, action is required to ensure responsible labelling and advertising in this regard.
Industry Canada, within its mandate to promote the fair and efficient operation of the Canadian marketplace, has undertaken to examine this issue in consultation with interest groups. Recognizing that Canadian industry associations were working independently to bring some order to green marketing, Industry Canada assembled a working group to develop this document: guiding principles to be used as a common reference by industry. The working group, as listed in Appendix 1, has worked closely and co-operatively to formulate these principles, to develop the advice and guidance based on the principles, and to adopt and promote them within their industry sectors.
In developing these principles, recognition has been given to the important role played by all participants in the marketplace, whether they are producers, distributors, advertisers or consumers. It is also recognized that while detailed technical information is not always readily available, there are a number of sources for credible information that will assist consumers to become informed on the various waste reduction and recycling programs available within their communities.
This document does not attempt to establish environmental standards or definitions, nor does it provide definitive solutions to complex scientific and technological issues relating to the environment.
The principles and guidelines outlined herein were developed within the context of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA) and the Competition Act (CA), both of which contain broad prohibitions against false and misleading representations. Adherence to the advice contained in this document will enhance the provision of meaningful information to consumers, and will assist industry in its obligation to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation. In keeping with the intent and spirit of the CPLA, all environmental claims should be in English and French.
This document was specifically developed to ensure flexibility, recognizing that much of the knowledge in this area is based on an evolving science and technology. Background information and guidance on the use of claims that are ambiguous or profess general benefit to the environment are addressed, as are the more specific, commonly-used representations.
All parties accept that it is necessary to address consumer information issues relating to environmental labelling and advertising. There will be periodic reviews and updating of the guidance contained herein, based on changes in technology, marketplace needs and enhanced awareness of environmental concerns. The reviews will, of necessity, draw on the broadest possible range of interests. Originally issued in May 1991, this revised version attempts to address issues that have arisen since then and also to elaborate on past issues.
The guidance presented here applies equally to the labelling and advertising of products as well as services. For the sake of simplicity the text will refer to products with the understanding that services are also included.
The members of the working group have brought together the most current information available to ensure a realistic and workable approach to the use of environmental claims, and will implement the principles and guidelines within their respective areas of influence. Accordingly, industry associations will recommend and encourage their members to follow the recommendations outlined to ensure that environmental claims are truthful and accurate and, where applicable, are premised on appropriate and reliable scientific and technological information that can be verified.
The advertising industry is a major user of environmental claims in the promotion of consumer products and services. The important role and responsibility of advertisers in this regard is reflected in the principles and guidelines contained in this document, which will become a supplement to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards administered by the Standards Division of the Canadian Advertising Foundation through the Advertising Standards Council and le Conseil des normes de la publicité.
Environment Canada is responsible for initiatives and programs that have implications for environmental labelling and advertising. Two current programs are the Environmental Choice Program that enables consumers to identify products and services that reduce environmental burden, and the National Packaging Protocol that targets a 50% reduction in packaging waste by the year 2000. Close liaison with Environment Canada is critical to ensure that those issues requiring a common approach are appropriately addressed and co-ordinated. In this regard, the glossary of terms developed by the National Task Force on Packaging, chaired by Environment Canada, will be adopted for the purposes of this document. A copy of these terms and their definitions is attached as Appendix 4.
Ultimately, Industry Canada will administer and enforce the relevant statutes controlling misrepresentation and misleading labelling and advertising. In all cases, a thorough investigation of the product and its specific claims and representations will form the basis of enforcement and/or compliance action under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and/or the Competition Act. Relevant excerpts from these Acts are provided in Appendix 5.
It is recognized that all participants in the marketplace have an important role to play in reducing the environmental impacts resulting from the production, use and disposal of products. Environmental claims and/or representations should provide accurate and relevant information to allow meaningful comparisons to be made, thereby enabling consumer purchasing power to influence the marketplace through informed product selection.
1) Those making environmental claims are responsible for ensuring that any claims and/or representations are accurate, and in compliance with the relevant legislation.
2) Consumers are responsible, to the extent possible, for appropriately using the information made available to them in labelling and advertising, thereby enhancing their role in the marketplace.
3) Environmental claims and/or representations that are ambiguous, vague, incomplete, misleading, or irrelevant, and that cannot be substantiated through credible information and/or test methods should not be used.4) Claims and/or representations should indicate whether they are related to the product or the packaging materials.
The advice and guidance which follow are an indication of the interpretation that will be used by officers of Industry Canada when examining claims under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act or the Competition Act. Environmental claims which follow this guidance are not likely to raise questions under the legislation. Positions relating to acceptability for any claim will only be taken following a complete review of the relevant facts, but final determination of acceptability will rest with the appropriate court of law.
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