Back in June (2021), this column1 described European regulatory updates with background on the European Green Deal (EGD)—the major environmental initiative that will influence all future policy in the European Union and affect anyone wanting to trade with the EU; also discussed were siloxanes and microplastics, all of which had updates that went in effect at the start of 2021. The present column adds to those discussions.
In this author's view, the aim of the EGD is to be welcomed, setting commitments to address climate and environmental-related challenges humans face. Because of this, the UK and EU cosmetic industries are taking action.
If we can take anything positive from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that as an industry, ours is agile when faced with the many challenges posed by the pandemic and associated restrictions. While it is unfortunately the case that many businesses will have to rebuild in some form, the industry can take this time to build back better, more sustainable products.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association's (CTPA's) Sustainability Strategy drives toward a net positive cosmetics industry2 by guiding members and the industry as a whole on how to affect change in key areas of: the environmental impact of production and the supply chain; waste and end-of-life fate; and well-being. The CTPA Sustainability Hub offers a go-to resource for advice and best practices.3
As there is a drive for sustainable living, consumers are becoming more aware of their consumption, more interested in companies’ green credentials, and are seeking products that meet their environmental ethos.
With any advertising comes the fundamental responsibility not to mislead the consumer. In the EU and UK, environmental claims for cosmetic products must follow the same requirements as all other cosmetic claims including Article 20 of the EU Cosmetic Products Regulation and UK Cosmetics Regulation, respectively; the EU Common Criteria Regulation; and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
Focus groups run for CTPA have highlighted a disconnect between what is claimed on packaging with what the consumer perceives and understands in the field of environmental and sustainable claims. The issue is also being reviewed by authorities.
In January 2021, the European Commission issued the results of a website screening exercise, which is carried out each year to identify breaches of EU consumer law in online markets.4 The focus this year was on greenwashing, or misleading environmental claims. The exercise analyzed online green claims from various business sectors such as garments, household equipment and cosmetics. Preliminary information highlighted that in 42% of cases, the claims were believed to be exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules.
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating environmental claims across different sectors including cosmetic and beauty products to assess whether environmental and green claims are compliant with consumer protection laws or are misleading consumers. The investigation comes as a consequence of the CMA’s research and evidence from other enforcers, demonstrating an increase in consumer demand for green products and subsequent increase in businesses making potentially misleading, vague or false claims about the sustainability or environmental impact of their products.
It also follows an investigation carried out by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN), of which the CMA is a part, that found 40% of environmental claims are misleading. The CMA review began in November 2020 and draft guidance on the applicability of the consumer protection law to environmental claims was published in May 2021.5 The draft guidance is open for consultation, to which the CTPA is contributing, and the final version of the guidance is scheduled to be published in August/September 2021.
The regulatory framework for cosmetic claims is clear. In relation, the CTPA has issued guidance on environmental and green claims to help companies comply with legal obligations.6
- Meredith, E. (2021, Jun 1). European regulatory update: Siloxanes, microplastics and the green deal. Available at: https://cosmeticsandtoiletries.texterity.com/cosmeticsandtoiletries/june_2021/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=DM5#pg29
- CTPA (accessed 2021, Jul 28). Sustainability matters: CTPA sustainability strategy. Available at: https://www.ctpa.org.uk/sustainability-matters
- CTPA (accessed 2021, Jul 18). Sustainability hub. Available at: https://www.ctpa.org.uk/sustainability-hub
- European Commission (2021, Jan 28). Screen of websites for ‘greenwashing’: Half of green claims lack evidence. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_269
- Competition & Markets Authority (CMA). (2021, May 21). Draft guidance on environmental claims on goods and services: Helping businesses comply with their consumer protection law obligations. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/60a66a9cd3bf7f73893a8e1f/Draft_guidance_on_environmental_claims_on_goods_and_services-.pdf
- CTPA (2020, Jul). CTPA environmental and green claims. Available at: https://www.ctpa.org.uk/sustainability-matters