Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
In 2021 the ASA and CAP will undertake a Climate Change and the Environment project taking stock of the rules regulating environmental claims. This project consists of three concurrent strands:
- Proactive regulation: proactively looking at environmental claims in several priority areas with a view to updating our position on emerging and existing themes and taking action against advertisers who use green claims in a way that is likely to mislead or cause harm.
- Standards fit for the 2020s: taking stock of how effective our rules and guidance are in governing environmental claims.
- Knowledge, education and communication: updating our existing resources to make them easily accessible, and creating new training materials and other educational resources to improve industry’s understanding and overall compliance with our rules on misleading and harmful environmental claims.
Please note that this advice article, and others, are likely to be updated in due course.
The energy market has been keen to introduce products that are kinder to the environment, for example by developing ”green” electricity. “Renewable electricity” is the term used to describe electricity generated from renewable non-fossil energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro-power, biomass, landfill gas, sewage-treatment-plant gas and biogas.
As with all sectors, marketers should hold evidence to substantiate all objective claims and, if a significant division of scientific opinion exists or evidence is inconclusive, that should be made clear to readers: marketers should not suggest that their claims command universal acceptance if they do not (Rule 11.5).
Marketers of electricity from renewable sources can make environmental claims, for example “100% Renewable Electricity” or “Green Electricity,” provided those claims can be substantiated (Good Energy Ltd, 22 June 2005, and Greenpeace t/a Juice, and 30 April 2003)
Most electricity generated from renewable sources is distributed through the national grid. The amount of electricity taken from the national grid by consumers of renewable electricity products is equal to the amount of electricity fed into the national grid from renewable sources. Marketers should ensure that they do not misleadingly imply that the electricity generated from renewable sources is delivered direct to their customers; they could include a claim along the lines of “renewable electricity is supplied to the national grid, which in turn supplies your home” or similar, If electricity from renewable sources is the main focus of an ad, that information should be stated in the body copy; if the product is one of several featured, the information might be acceptable in a linked footnote (Good Energy Ltd, 2 March 2011 and 9 June 2004). Claims such as "100% renewable" that don’t imply energy is supplied directly to consumers do not need qualification, but will need to be substantiated as usual (Woodland Trust t/a Woodland Trust Energy, 11th December 2013).
Claims that are wider in scope and not explained or qualified, for example “Live the life you want - without harming your world”, are more ambitious and are likely to cause problems. For claims like that, marketers should be able to show that all the activities associated with the project (including construction, operation and decommissioning) result in no adverse environmental impact (Good Energy Ltd, 22nd June 2005).
Marketers should be aware that less obvious interpretations of claims such as "the UK's leading 100% renewable electricity supplier", that rely on the advertiser being the only supplier that supplies only renewable electricity, rather than a supplier of a 100% renewable tariff are likely to be problematic (Good Energy Ltd, 7th August 2013).
It is also worth noting that even statements of intent regarding environmental credentials can be problematic if they are not sufficiently qualified, or supported by a clear organisational plan of how to achieve them (Spark energy Ltd, 20 July 2011).
See entries on ‘Environmental Claims’ and Environmental claims Electricity from renewable sources - Output and emissions claims