Investigation Finds ‘Greenwashing’ Prevalent in Cosmetics and Personal Care Businesses in Australia

A recent internet sweep by The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) analysing businesses has revealed an alarming number of instances of ‘greenwashing’.

Cambridge Dictionary defines greenwashing as “behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”.

The ACCC reveals that the cosmetics and personal care sector ranked first against seven other sectors, with the greatest portion of concerning environmental claims.

Of the 30 cosmetics and personal care brands investigated, 22 made concerning claims. 

Such businesses are identified as using vague or unclear environmental claims, not providing sufficient evidence for their claims, setting environmental goals without clear plans for how these will be achieved, and/or using third-party certifications and symbols in a confusing way.

The nature of the claims vary, from suggestions brands used “sustainable materials” and made claims that were unsubstantiated, through to brands making unverified absolute claims (such as 100% plastic free, zero emissions, etc) and comparative claims, suggesting their products were more sustainable than others in the same market. Exaggerated and aspirational were also identified, as was the incorrect use of third-party certifications and trustmarks.

The ACCC recognises that a key driver of such claims is the rise in consumer interest in sustainable goods, hence the push to market related claims.

“A misleading, meaningless, or unclear claim breaches consumer trust and hurts confidence in both the claim itself and sustainability claims in general,” the report states.

In response to the findings, the ACCC states:

“The ACCC will be conducting further analysis of these issues and will undertake enforcement, compliance, and education activities where appropriate. This will include producing updated economy-wide guidance material, as well as targeted guidance for specific sectors.”

“The ACCC will also engage directly with businesses and industry associations to improve compliance with the ACL. Where concerns have been identified with specific businesses, a more targeted assessment of the conduct will be undertaken to determine the appropriate compliance or enforcement approach.” 

“Depending on the circumstances, this may lead to an administrative resolution, issuing an infringement notice, or legal proceedings.”

Consumers and businesses can make a report through the ACCC website or by contacting the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at

Back to top