Rohit Kumar Singh, secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs R
ohit Kumar Singh was blunt. “If a company claims a product to be green, I say don’t just believe it blindly,” the secretary at the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) said in an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, when we caught up with him on the sidelines of the launch of the ASCI Academy by the Advertising Standards Council of India. “Do your own due diligence and see whether it is actually green,” he added.
He also said that DoCA is already working on guidelines on ‘greenwashing’. “Many people are adopting sustainable lifestyles. People are willing to pay 2X, 3X for something which is sustainable and green. But this thing shouldn’t be taken undue advantage of by unscrupulous people. So consumers have to be aware. We may start penalising people for ‘greenwashing’, both on the preventive side and corrective side,” he warned.
Asked for details about the greenwashing guidelines and when they could be rolled out, Singh said that he can’t comment on it yet. “Because it takes a lot of hard work and we don’t want something half-baked. It should be meaningful and help the consumer.”Also read: Climate change: The window is closing to take action
Prior to this conversation, in an address to the advertising industry at the launch of the ASCI Academy, Singh made a special statement pertaining to ‘greenwashing’. Observing how everyone seems to be selling ‘organic’ products nowadays, Singh said “Just because a product comes in a recycled package does not mean that the product inside is ‘green’. Or just because there is a ‘green’ logo, doesn’t mean it is organic,” he said. “That’s why it is our joint responsibility,” concluded Singh.
“When one talks of a circular economy, I always say that it would take three to tango—the consumer, the producer and the regulators. Unless all three are on the same page, it will not happen.”
Greenwashing is classified as an unfair trade practice by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Bureau of Indian Standards too has a green product certification scheme to monitor products labelled as eco-friendly, while green labels like Energy Star and EcoMark are given to products that meet energy efficiency, water conservation and sustainable raw material sourcing standards. Even so, many brands push their products as green and circular. It remains to be seen what the DoCA will do to address this.