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Valid product performance claims or something meaningless?

15 March 2024

Lorcan Mekitarian highlights the increasing issue of unverified product claims in the cleaning industry, driven by challenges in international supply chains and the emphasis on sustainable solutions due to climate change.

DURING THE height of the pandemic, when demand was high and urgent, many opportunists made all sorts of product claims they could not substantiate. Today, the problem is on the increase, a trend being driven by two over-arching factors, the pressure on international supply chains and climate change. 

Uncertainty across the globe is putting pressure on international supply chains, driving up costs for everyone. Buyers looking for the cheapest option that does the job are at risk of being seduced by unscrupulous providers making all sorts of performance claims for low-cost products.

Our members are reporting more and more spurious product claims, asking for the products involved to be audited to get the evidence buyers need to be avoid being caught out by these unscrupulous traders. Typical of the claims we are seeing concerns the long-term residual effects of cleaning chemicals. Without the supporting evidence on the environmental conditions within which this applies, the claim is misleading at worst and meaningless at best. Plastic sacks are often promoted as manufactured from 100% recycled plastic. Does the supporting evidence exist and is it available?

The second factor is climate change and the clear and present need for sustainable solutions. This year we have had unseasonably high temperatures. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, January was the warmest on record. We have been deluged since the beginning of the year with storm after storm blowing across the UK. Manufacturers and distributors in our sector are working hard to deliver environmentally sustainable solutions. However, discerning valid environmental claims from the greenwashing of the opportunists is not easy. 

All sorts of products are promoted as eco- or environmentally friendly. This may imply the product is organic or natural, but organic is a poorly defined term. Does it mean the product has been certified by the Soil Association, derived from a living organism or based on carbon chemistry? Natural implies the product exists within or is produced by nature and so is more sustainable. This is not automatically true. Sourcing the natural substance may have a very high carbon footprint. Products are frequently said to be chemical-free, suggesting non-toxicity or plant-based. However, everything is made of chemicals, so it is completely meaningless. 

Furthermore, do these claims apply to the product, the packaging or the processes of manufacturer and distribution? A great deal is often implied but without any substantiation. 

Differentiating product information you can trust from irrelevant, meaningless and misleading claims is not easy. Our advice is simple. Be cautious. 

  • Be sceptical. If a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ask for supporting evidence. Reputable companies will be willing and able to provide data sheets, reports, certificates or other evidence to support the claims.
  • Buy from a reputable supplier with a track record. 
  • Specify CHSA Accreditation. Our standards, your guarantee.

Every CHSA member has signed the CHSA’s rigorous Code of Practice, which incorporates the Competition and Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code. It requires them to “maintain a high standard in the conduct of its business”.

The CHSA operates six Accreditation Schemes, the integrity of which are guaranteed by independent inspection. The Schemes are for manufacturers of soft tissue, plastic sacks, cotton mops and cleaning chemicals, for general manufacturers and for distributors of cleaning and hygiene products.

The combination of our Code of Practice and Accreditation Scheme membership means every member:

  • Trades ethically and sustainably
  • Provides supporting information for claims made
  • Provides quality, fit for purpose products
  • Makes sure what’s on the box is what’s in the box.

​Lorcan Mekitarian is chair of the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association.

For more information visit www.CHSA.co.uk

Tel: 0800 243 919