Nearly seven in 10 Canadians don’t trust the sustainability claims companies make about their products and services, a new poll has found.
The survey — carried out by the Angus Reid Forum on behalf of Onyen, a software company that helps investors evaluate companies based on their environmental, social and governance record — found 68 per cent of Canadians suspect companies are trying to pass off green credentials they don’t deserve.
In a tweet Tuesday, Canada's Competition Bureau agreed, warning Canadians to “Watch out for labels using vague environmental claims such as 'eco-friendly,' 'all-natural,' or 'green.'”
According to the survey, the most skeptical region of the country was Atlantic Canada, where 75 per cent of respondents didn’t trust companies’ green claims. Tied for second, 69 per cent of respondents in B.C. and Ontario said they don’t trust companies’ sustainability claims. Albertans were found to be the most trusting, with 63 per cent of those polled saying they don’t trust how companies represent their environmental record.
A lot more can be done to build trust in a green economy, according to Competition Bureau’s Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell, whose agency has taken a particular interest in deceptive marketing tactics.
“Climate change may be the greatest market failure we have faced — if we can contribute to addressing it simply by doing our day job or sharing our unique insights with policymakers, we should think about that,” Boswell said in a written statement earlier this year.
‘Greenwashing’ has increasingly caught the eye of federal watchdogs — in 2022, the bureau warned consumers to be wary of companies’ sustainability claims. Since then, the it has taken on a number of complaints alleging misleading and false environmental claims.
In September 2022, the anti-trust regulator invited nearly 400 people from 40 countries to Ottawa to attend a summit designed to respond to a rising number of greenwashing cases.
“Competition agencies must stay on top of greenwashing,” noted the bureau in a summary of their findings released in January.
“False and misleading environmental claims prevent competition between businesses on their merits. They also erode consumers’ confidence in a greener economy.”
Last week, the bureau released 50 interventions designed to modernize competition policy in Canada. Among the recommendations, the bureau argued for greater flexibility in combating deceptive marketing tactics.
In one example, the bureau considers a case where a customer buys what’s advertised as a high-efficiency air conditioner, only to learn it’s the lowest efficiency model on the market, and holds no third-party certification. In the end, the consumer’s electricity bills are actually higher than they were before.
Currently, the bureau says it can offer some restitution, but courts still don’t have the ability to cancel contracts where there has been “deceptive marketing.”
The Angus Reid poll sampled the opinions of 1,506 Canadians in an online survey that ran from Feb. 22 and 24. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.