SLK creates guideline against greenwashing

When is commercial advertising greenwashing? The Swiss Commission for Fair Trading is increasingly confronted with this question. A new guideline should now provide clarity.

Image: Eddie Iglesias; Unsplash.

The Swiss Commission for Fair Trading (SLK) has published a new Guideline on advertising with an environmental or climate focus. The guideline clarifies which requirements must be met if a company advertises with environmental arguments, i.e. engages in green marketing. Advertisers are given information on what they should take into account and what is relevant for the SLK in any complaints procedure.

For the first time, this directive provides concrete guidelines for Switzerland on what should be taken into account in commercial communication with an environmental reference or with environmental arguments so that the requirements of fair trading law are met. "The directive is a guide to positive, fair action, not a prohibition directive," explains Reto Inglin, Legal Secretary of the Fair Trading Commission.

Complaints about greenwashing on the rise

Although the SLK has been dealing with complaints in the area of green marketing for many years, there has recently been a noticeable increase in such complaints. Individual cases are attracting a lot of attention, such as the SLK's decision published last June in connection with FIFA's communication on the climate neutrality of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The new directive summarizes the previous SLK case law in this area and integrates international developments, in particular the EU directive on environmental claims. This is not a matter of adopting EU law, but rather of selectively incorporating international considerations regarding the promotion of transparency, clarity and truthfulness in communication.

An internal working group of the Commission on Fair Trading examined whether an amendment to the SLK's principles was necessary. It came to the conclusion that the existing legal basis is sufficient to examine the fairness of commercial communications with an environmental connection.

The new directive does not create any new rules, but rather specifies the requirements for when green marketing fulfills the truth and clarity requirements in fair marketing law. "Our aim is to create clear guidelines. We are convinced that this will be of great benefit to all players in commercial communication," says Reto Inglin.

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