Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): Mr Chairman, the practice of making false environmentally-friendly claims in advertising is dubbed greenwashing. In Singapore, it would seem that action is very rarely taken against advertisers who make dubious claims with the intent to deceive consumers that their products are “environmentally-friendly”, “carbon neutral” and so on.
Some countries have legislated on this issue. For example, France’s Climate Law prohibits companies from advertising that their products are carbon neutral, unless they can provide public information to back that up. South Korea’s government is simplifying its process to fine companies that make false claims about environmental impact. The UK government has created a Green Claims Code and done some enforcement around that.
While what counts as greenwashing is not always clear, I would like to propose some solutions here.
First, our Singapore Code of Advertising Practice should explicitly cover greenwashing, with the Government developing legislation to bring clarity on what constitutes greenwashing in advertising. Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and industry bodies can support this, with the Government playing an arbiter role and also taking reference from definitions found in laws overseas while adapting them locally.
When ready, we can develop relevant legislation, which could include the mandatory provision of supporting documents for companies that choose to make green claims.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is an early adopter of initiatives to tackle greenwashing, which could provide lessons. In 2022, MAS announced that funds that are sold to retail investors in Singapore under the label of meeting environmental, social, governance (ESG) standards will now have to back up their claims with new disclosure and reporting guidelines.
Aside from legislating and enforcing against false advertising under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and sector-specific laws like the Estate Agents Act and the Medicines Act, much more also needs to be done on engaging the public to remind them that spotting and reporting potential offences is a public good and will benefit society.
Engagement will also better help us understand what the key on-the-ground issues with greenwashing are, even as we eventually aim to legislate and enforce against greenwashing.
Ministry of Communications and Information
28 February 2023