ASA Adjudication on Scottish & Southern Energy Group
Scottish & Southern Energy Group t/a
Scottish Hydro Electric
200 Dunkeld Road
11 October 2006
Number of complaints:
A leaflet, for Scottish and Southern Energy Group (SSE), was headlined "A GOOD USE OF YOUR ENERGY" and claimed "When you join power2, we supply cleaner, greener hydro-electricity to the National Grid, cutting CO2 emissions. And we plant trees to balance out the CO2 that your gas heating and household waste produces".
The complainant believed that the claim "we plant trees to balance out the CO2 that your gas heating and household waste produces" was misleading and could not be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
SSE said the claim "we plant trees to balance out the CO2 that your gas heating and household waste produces" informed readers that, if they subscribed to the advertised scheme, SSE would plant sufficient trees to absorb the amount of CO2 produced by the household waste production and gas consumption of an average UK household.
SSE said they had entered into a three-year agreement with the World Land Trust (WLT), which stated that the WLT would plant and manage sufficient saplings to ensure 150,000 growing trees per annum in one or more sites in the UK or world-wide. They said WLT had planted trees in Ecuador and Brazil that were native to those regions.
SSE said they had chosen a figure of 150,000 based on the 30,000 subscribers to the scheme they had at the end of 2005; they said they expected to have 75,000 subscribers by the end of 2008.
SSE provided evidence from OFGEM that showed that the average annual gas consumption per household in the UK was 20,500 kWh and that that produced 3.9 tonnes of CO2 per year. SSE provided evidence from Environmental Resource Management (ERM) which showed that the average household in the UK produced domestic waste equivalent to 0.75 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The ASA considered that readers were likely to understand the claim "we plant trees to balance out the CO2 that your gas heating and household waste produces" to mean that the number of trees planted would absorb as much CO2 as an average UK household's gas heating and waste produced.
We noted SSE had not provided us with evidence to show the amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by the tree planting carried out by WLT in South America and considered that it was therefore not possible to determine whether the trees planted would balance out the CO2 produced by the gas heating and household waste of an average UK household. We concluded that SSE had not substantiated the claim.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).
We told SSE not to use the ad again in its current form and not to use the claim again unamended. We advised them to contact the CAP Copy Advice team for help in amending the ad.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)