Environmental claims in ads

Jun 4th '20

Ensuring your environmental claims are more than just hot air

The 5th of June 2020 is World Environment Day, a UN initiative to raise awareness and encourage action to protect the environment.  To coincide with this the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have put together some guidance to help you make sure you make sustainable claims in your advertising.


Be 100% sure about your renewable energy claims

Energy providers who can prove that all the energy they produce is from renewable sources can claim that they offer ‘100% renewable electricity’ or similar, since the overall environmental impact of changing from a provider not offering 100% renewable tariffs will be the same.  However, they should ensure that it is sufficiently clear to consumers that the energy will be supplied to the national grid and ads must not imply that it will be supplied directly to homes.


Hold appropriate substantiation

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has always expected advertisers making claims about the environmental impact of products and services to hold substantial evidence and the CAP Code makes clear that absolute claims (like ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’) should be supported by a high level of substantiation, as this ruling on a Ryanair ad which stated “low CO2 emissions” shows. This ruling also upheld complaints about the comparative claim “Europe’s…Lowest Emissions Airline”. Claims like ‘greener’ or ‘friendlier’ will require verifiable evidence that proves an environmental benefit over comparable products.


Any claim that a product has no impact on the environment is going to require a high level of substantiation, as this ruling about a claim that an electric heating system produced ‘zero carbon emissions’ demonstrates.


Take care with recycling claims

If a marketer wishes to claim that their product is recyclable, they must hold appropriate evidence, as in this ruling on Carpet Recycling UK Ltd. Similarly, marketers should make clear if only part of a product is recyclable.


If a marketer claims that their product is 100% recycled then it really must be 100%, not merely close, as this ruling on Colourful Coffins Ltd demonstrates.


On that note, read all the details in our advice on recycling claims.


Keep emissions claims in check

Claims about the environmental impact of electric or hybrid vehicles and their emissions should be suitably qualified, for example claims that an electric car produces no emissions should be clarified to make clear it is while driving only. Official fuel consumption claims, as for any vehicle, need to be qualified to make clear that they’re primarily for comparison purposes and are not intended to reflect results in real-life driving.


So, environmental claims can be acceptable but must be supported by first-rate evidence.


Source: CAP


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