This New ‘Rulebook’ Helps Companies Avoid Greenwashing Claims

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A new rulebook has just launched to help guide companies when they make sustainability claims. Called the Provenance Framework, it lists the criteria that companies need to fulfill to credibly make an environmental claim. By following the rulebook, firms can avoid greenwashing or misleading consumers. 

With conscious consumerism on the rise, many companies are marketing their products with various green claims. But these claims aren’t always true, and consumers are getting more savvy with detecting greenwashing. Getting caught over misleading consumers isn’t a great business strategy for brands.

Provenance Framework

That’s why Provenance, a British blockchain software startup, has just launched its new Provenance Framework. The company describes it as an open-source rulebook for businesses to follow when it comes to communicating their efforts on sustainability. 

“It’s time to openly agree on how brands talk about the impact products have on people and the planet,” said Jessi Baker, founder of Provenance. “‍As a marketing or sustainability lead, you can use the Provenance Framework to identify shopper-friendly claims that you can make and substantiate today.” 

The Provenance Framework. (Image: Provenance)

The rulebook contains more than 50 consumer-facing claims, categorised into five main focus areas. These are: climate, communities, nature, waste, and workers. With each statement, it outlines key criteria that brands must fulfill in order to make a credible claim.

For instance, if a company says they are using “fully recycled packaging”, Provenance’s guide shows how they can provide evidence. British online beauty platform Cult Beauty is one of the firms already using the framework to ensure that their listed products have verifiable claims. 

“This gives you clear, robust parameters for what you can and can’t legitimately say about your brand or products,” explains Baker. 

Provenance founder Jessi Baker. (Image: Jessi Baker)

Greenwashing on the rise

The launch of Provenance Framework comes as brands face greater scrutiny over greenwashing. 

Perhaps the most famous example is the fashion industry, where companies have been called out for lack of transparency over their eco-credentials. According to a recent report, as many as 59% of fashion brands’ sustainability claims are in violation of Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) rules. 

Greenwashing is even rampant in the sustainable finance sector. An investigation by the Economist revealed that ESG funds were actually “stuffed full of polluters and sin stocks”. 

Regulatory penalties are an ever-growing threat.

Jessi Baker, Founder, Provenance
Cult Beauty uses the open-source rulebook to verify brands’ sustainability claims. (Image: Provenance)

“Brands are [now] aware of the repercussions of getting it wrong,” says Baker. “Damaging shoppers’ perceptions of your brand is one thing, but with the CMA set to announce robust laws on misleading environmental claims later this year, the regulatory penalties are an ever-growing threat.” 

Ongoing development

The open-source guidelines on the Provenance Framework will be continually updated over time. According to Baker, the “work is never done”—even if an entire team of consultancies, experts, and Provenance’s own Integrity Council all came together to build the framework.

“We recognise that best practice [is] constantly evolving,” she says. “I’d love to hear from anyone with suggestions for how we can improve and develop the framework to best help brands communicate their impact.” 


All images courtesy of Provenance.


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