Recently, this column wrote of the misuse of words in relation to wind and solar “farms”.
The latest criticism relates to greenwashing products of, inter alia, the agricultural sector.
The Senate Standing Committee on Environment & Communications has decided to have an inquiry into “greenwashing”, by which is meant claims made by companies on the environmental benefits of their products; the impact of these claims on consumers; regulatory examples; advertising standards; and legislative options to protect consumers.
The actual terms of reference particularly refer to the environmental and sustainability claims made by industries including energy, vehicles, household products and appliances, food and drink packaging, cosmetics, clothing and footwear.
The formal date for submissions was at the end of June this year, but the Committee has been granted an extension of time for the report until 28 June 2024.
Among the 126 submissions, one is from the Animal Justice Party (AJP). In Victoria, the AJP has one member of the Legislative Council and a Councillor in local government.
The submission of the AJP draws special attention to “the growing trend of greenwashing” in the beef industry.
Certainly, there are doubts about the efficiency of the carbon credit scheme. For instance, the ACT government claims that the Territory is 100% carbon (they mean carbon dioxide) free, when the truth is it’s making good use of others’ “offset” credits. Those approved credits are not actually achieving new cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
After delivering a “serve” about kangaroo meat, however, the AJF recommends that, unless unquestionable evidence is given, the following terms should be banned for use by animal industry food producers: sustainability, regenerative (soils), holistic, zero emissions, carbon neutral, net zero, environmentally responsible, ethical.
This completely ignores the time consumers have available to read all about e.g. regenerative agriculture – even if they could understand it.
When the AJP’s claim was put to the CEO of the National Farmers Federation, he said it revealed that the AJP’s true agenda was to shut down Australian farms. He considered that the AJP is hiding behind university studies from overseas. He thought this exposed how little they understood about Australia’s unique primary production systems.
Of course, the AJP’s submission ends with a recommendation to establish a national greenwashing enforcement agency to deal with claims.
Whether one side or the other will be given recognition will be found out only when the Senate committee reports next year.
This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 22 September 2023.