MP Leon Perera

Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) how often have enforcement actions been taken under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act for greenwashing-related activities in each of the last five years; and (b) how many of such enforcement actions have been taken against products and services that are not financial services or financial products regulated by MAS.

Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the Ministry will consider working with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore to explore expanding the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice to explicitly cover greenwashing in non-financial products and services.

The Minister of State for Trade and Industry (Mr Alvin Tan) (for the Minister for Trade and Industry): Mr Speaker, may I have your permission to take Question Nos 4 and 5 in the Order Paper together, please?

Mr Speaker: Please proceed.

Mr Alvin Tan: The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, or CPFTA, protects consumers against false or misleading claims, including those related to greenwashing. The Consumers Association of Singapore and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore have not received any specific complaints alleging greenwashing.

There are existing guidelines under the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, developed by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore, to ensure that advertisers must clearly explain, adequately substantiate and qualify any environmental claim where necessary.

The Government will continue to monitor developments on greenwashing and develop further measures if necessary.

Mr Speaker: Mr Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Just two supplementary questions.

One is in relation to the possibility of legislation in the future. There are countries that have legislated to say that when brands make green claims, they must be able to provide supporting documentation to some kind of authority or independent auditor process. So, will the Government consider this in the future, given how important it is to ensure public confidence in the accuracy of green claims when they are made.

Secondly, if I heard the Minister of State correctly, is it fair to say that if there are complaints about greenwashing from members of the public, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or other parties, will those complaints be investigated by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS)? Should those complaints be made to CCCS?

Mr Alvin Tan: I thank the Member for his supplementary question. In fact, the Member had also raised this at the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) Committee of Supply (COS) debates and I thought that this was a very important issue that the Government is very much concerned about.

It is an emerging issue that has received growing interest among environmental and consumer protection authorities in many of the overseas jurisdictions, and the Member, in his MCI COS speech, had also outlined some of the different jurisdictions that have taken an interest in it and, in fact, some had also legislated on the issue of environmental claims or greenwashing as well.

While the current scope of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) is sufficiently broad to address greenwashing claims by a supplier in a business-to-consumer (B2C) transaction, CCCS is studying developments on greenwashing in other jurisdictions, in fact, to assess if any specific guidance or regulations would be useful in the Singapore context.

On the Member’s second question, I would like to say that consumers who encounter greenwashing or misleading environmental claims made by suppliers can approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) for assistance in resolving the dispute.

In egregious cases, CASE may refer the supplier to CCCS for investigation. I thank the Member for his supplementary questions and the Government is studying this very carefully and we will make the necessary moves where necessary.

Ministry of Trade and Industry
21 March 2023


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