In June 2024, Canada has passed a new anti-greenwashing law (Bill C-59) as part of Canada's Competition Act. Companies can now not make environmental claims without substantiating them.

The bill prohibits a public "statement, warranty or guarantee of a product's benefits for protecting or restoring the environment or mitigating the environmental, social and ecological cuases or effects of climate change" if the claims are not based on "an adequate and propoer test". It also demands that the claims be in accordance “with internationally recognized methodology.” In both cases, the onus is on the person making the claims to provide the relevant proof.

In addition, consumers will now be able to take their complaints directly to the Competition Tribunal. Those found to be in violation could be slapped with penalties up to $15 million and 3% of a corporation’s annual worldwide gross revenues.

Celebrated bill

Leah Temper, from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), said: "False green claims, or greenwashing, not only deceive consumers but also contribute to pollution and environmental degradation, with serious implications for human health." In addition, "it skews the competitive landscape, impairs sustainable consumption decisions, harms consumer trust and undermines companies’ incentives to invest in green innovation," noted Tanya Jemec, a lawyer at Ecojustice.

All companies and industries have to comply

While most of the attention has been focused on oil and gas companies, the regulations in Bill C-59 are not specific to any one industry, suggesting that new scrutiny could now be applied to popular terms such as “net-zero,” “carbon-neutral” and “sustainable.”

Pathways Alliance

For the Pathways Alliance, a coalition of six of the largest oil and gas producers in the country – and currently under investigation by the Competition Bureau for its environmental claims – the new rules create “significant uncertainty” for companies trying to communicate how they are trying to improve their environmental performance. As a result, it erased all content from its website, social media and other public communications. Other oil and gas companies have removed information from their websites or added disclaimers and legal notices.

“This is a direct consequence of the new legislation and is not related to our belief in the truth and accuracy of our environmental communications,” Pathways Alliance said on its website.