The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been asked to investigate whether a Victorian government agency, VicForests, is deliberately misleading the public about the true cost of its industrial logging operations.
Who filed the greenwashing complaint?
Lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia have filed an ACCC complaint on behalf of the Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA), which represents 30 grassroots community groups.
The ACCC has been asked to investigate whether statements on the VicForests website may be false and misleading within the meaning of sections 18 and 29 of Australian Consumer Law.
Click here to read the 18-page complaint, which details allegations of misleading marketing and state-sponsored greenwashing.
What is greenwashing?
The ACCC has announced that greenwashing will be a top enforcement priority for the second year running as consumers become more environmentally conscious and likely to rely on environmental claims.
The ACCC defines greenwashing as “falsely promoting environmental or green credentials to capitalise on these consumer preferences.”
“Successive court rulings have found that VicForests practices have failed to protect endangered species and it’s logging seriously threatens the State’s environment.
Companies, including major supermarkets, should think long and hard about the brands they want to be associated with because the public has had enough of greenwashing.
This level of spin doctoring and corporate marketing is completely unpalatable and unconscionable.”
What should be investigated?
The VFA is concerned that statements on the VicForests website falsely suggest that the agency’s logging of forests is ‘sustainable’.
The ACCC has also been asked to investigate inaccurate claims about the impacts of logging on carbon stores in forests, as well as spurious claims that VicForests conducts adequate surveys for threatened and endangered species prior to logging.
In particular, the surveying claims on VicForests’ website appear to be inconsistent with recent Federal Court and Victorian Supreme Court findings against the logging agency and the ACCC should investigate.
It’s difficult to understand how any claims about sustainable logging are consistent with what the Courts have repeatedly found.
Why is logging by VicForests unsustainable?
There is overwhelming evidence that their logging devastates forests, kills threatened wildlife, degrades biodiversity, and makes forests more vulnerable to frequent and intense bushfires.
VicForests has been denied membership with the Forest Stewardship Council, which is the “most-trusted” international forest certification scheme.
In November 2022, VicForests was found to have been logging in breach of environmental protections in a landmark court win by Environment East Gippsland and Kinglake Friends of the Forest.
Is logging still happening?
Despite the end of native forest logging in Victoria, VicForests recently announced the addition of 184 new coupes in its Timber Release Plan to ‘allow for flexibility’.
More than 65,000 hectares of public land is also still on the chopping block beyond 1 January 2024, with logging centred around Benalla, Mansfield, Bendigo, Central and East Gippsland, the Mid-Murray and Western Victoria.