Page last updated at 03:30 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Call for clearer green labelling

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The MPs cited "insubstantial or meaningless environmental claims"

The government must do more to ensure environmental labels on products are not misleading, MPs have said.

The all-party Environmental Audit Committee said there was a growing problem of firms making meaningless claims, known as "greenwash".

The committee wants an independently monitored labelling system to avoid confusion among consumers.

The MPs said they preferred a voluntary scheme but ministers should consider the use of legislation if necessary.

'Informed choices'

Committee member Colin Challen, chairman of the environmental information sub-committee, said: "The government has to act to deal with the problem of greenwash.

"Clear labels are needed to help consumers make informed choices, but for consumers to have confidence in them environmental labels must be backed up by independent monitoring that is fully verified.

"The proliferation of labels means we urgently need a universal scheme to help consumers discriminate between products on the basis of environmental factors."

We are already seeing that businesses can reap the benefits in terms of reduced carbon
Euan Murray
The Carbon Trust
He said such a system would "help drive up environmental standards across whole sectors of the economy."

The committee said the use of "insubstantial or meaningless environmental claims" to promote products was on the rise.

Its report added that labelling could be similar to the "traffic light" or "petal" systems used for nutrition in the food industry.

BBC News environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee says the committee's members believe it is up to the government to take a role in policing green labels.

The Carbon Trust has been piloting a carbon reduction label scheme since 2007.

The trust's carbon footprinting general manager Euan Murray said: "We are already seeing that businesses can reap the benefits in terms of reduced carbon, reduced costs, better supplier relationships and a clear reputational benefit."

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