Over recent years, many operators have made a conscious effort to focus on sustainability and present an environmentally friendly image to their customers.  It has become almost standard practice for many businesses to claim their products and services have a positive or minimal impact on the environment.  However, earlier this year, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) indicated a crack-down on unsubstantiated claims that a product or service is environmentally friendly (also known as ‘greenwashing’).

Explaining the Green Claims Code

The CMA produced the Green Claims Code last year to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading consumers. For the pub, bar and leisure sector, it will be the CMA’s scrutiny of claims made in relation to food and drink in particular which will be felt. But, businesses can ensure compliance with the Code by ensuring they follow six distinct instructions as follows:

  • Making sure claims are truthful and accurate
  • Making sure claims are clear, avoiding ambiguity
  • Ensuring no information is omitted from a claim
  • Making fair and meaningful comparisons in a claim
  • Ensuring claims can be substantiated; and
  • Considering the entire lifecycle of a product

Operators who ignore the Code do so at their peril as the consequences could be significant.  There is a risk of financial penalties and a new regime of fines of up to 10% of global turnover are also proposed. But, most importantly, greenwashing is sure to have a negative impact on the reputation of a business.

Only last month, the supermarket giant Tesco was in the headlines for breaching the code with an advertisement campaign for plant-based burgers. The adverts claimed to allow a woman in their advert to do “her bit for the planet” by switching to the Plant Chef range. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is working closely with the CMA on greenwashing and confirmed this statement to be misleading for consumers, as the supermarket could not evidence the green credentials of the full lifecycle of the product.

Key takeaways for pub and leisure industries

So, how do retailers and wholesalers in the pub and leisure industries make sure they comply with the Code?  Well, using the Tesco example above, it is clear that the devil really is in the detail so a full audit of food and drink products supplied and any associated green claims made would be a pre-requisite. Operators can do this by conducting thorough research and third-party verification on suppliers. Similarly, if wholesalers are marketing a new product that is supposedly an improved version, it is prudent to check the product has the same environmental credentials as the predecessor.

In short, the Green Claims Code offers the pub, bar and leisure sector a new opportunity to really commit to sustainable goals. Pubs and independents have already been instrumental in tackling issues such as plastic straw usage.

Minimising the risk of greenwashing goes one step further, providing clarity for consumers whilst simultaneously benefiting the environment and protecting against the commercial interests of your business.

 

Q&A

Q. I want to do deliveries of alcohol with food to homes, as customers have been asking me. I would like to understand when alcohol deliveries have to stop?

Delivery of alcohol is not licensable, it is the sale that is. Technically you can make a sale of alcohol up to the time permitted for off sales (or 11pm if you are relying on the Business and Planning Act- if you are, remember to vary your licence before September 30!) and still legally deliver after that time. It is worth checking your premises licence conditions to see if there are any further restrictions or requirements for delivering alcohol and, if there are, seeking advice to ensure you are not likely to break the law.

Q. One of my employees has been harassed by a third party (who I do not employ). I heard there is a new law being introduced to protect individuals from third party harassment – can you explain this?

Under the current law, employers do not have a duty to prevent this kind of harassment and are not liable for harassment by non-employees. The government recently made commitments to re-introducing protection from third party harassment. It will introduce a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment and introduce a new statutory code of practice (statutory code means a tribunal must take it into account rather than just considering it). For the moment there have been no confirmed timescales or any further details on this. However, we expect that employers who take reasonable steps to protect their staff from harassment by third-parties, will have a defence to any claim if any such harassment takes place. Despite this, employers do have a responsibility to ensure all their staff are educated about their rights at work and know where to find help if needed.

Originally published in Pub & Bar magazine.

Date published

04 August 2022

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