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 launched a Climate Change and the Environment (CCE) project, to respond to the ongoing climate crisis and take action to ensure that environmental claims in advertising are not misleading or irresponsible. Updates about our work in this area are published here.
The project consists of several strands, including:
- Sector-specific reviews, focusing on previous ASA work on these issues, common claims in ads for these sectors, and any recent legislation or developments in understanding of their environmental impacts
- Research into consumer understanding of different types of environmental claims
- Targeted investigations, to establish new precedent and take action against advertisers who use green claims in a way that is likely to mislead or cause harm
- Updates to our existing resources, and creation of new educational material
Please see the updated CAP Advertising Guidance on The environment: misleading claims and social responsibility in advertising, and the new e-learning module that covers the rules on Climate Change and the Environment.
While this advice represents the current position, the ASA’s CCE project is actively reviewing our approach to these issues, which may lead to further rulings and updates to this guidance.
Marketers should ensure that they hold evidence to substantiate claims about the extent to which their products are recycled or can be recycled, and what percentage of their product is made from recycled materials.
Ensure claims that products can be recycled are genuine
Marketers should ensure they hold suitable evidence if they wish to claim their product is recyclable. In 2014 a carpet recycling company provided examples of multiple companies recycling them in different ways to support such a claim, which the ASA considered sufficient substantiation (Carpet Recycling UK Ltd, 2 July 2014).
The ASA has ruled that consumers will understand that “100% recyclable” means a product can potentially be recycled, not necessarily that it always will be. Marketers should nevertheless ensure that they do not exaggerate the environmental credentials of their product, for example by implying that all of a product can be recycled if only part of it can be (Rockwool Insulation Ltd, 14 October 2009).
Don’t exaggerate the recycled content of the product
One advertiser that claimed their coffins were made of “100% recycled cardboard” was asked to change the claim because the outer edges of the cardboard were not made of recycled materials (Colourful Coffins Ltd, 14 March 2012). Marketers should be careful that they do not make claims such as “100% environmentally friendly” or "totally recyclable for zero environmental legacy" that cannot be substantiated (SEEBOARD Energy Ltd, 8 January 2003, and Euroclad Ltd, 14 June 2006).
Ensure absolute environmental claims apply to the product’s full lifecycle
The ASA has ruled that general claims about the environmental credentials of products or services may often be interpreted as absolute claims about the product’s entire lifecycle, from manufacture to disposal. Two advertisers who described their products as “low impact” and “eco-friendly”, respectively, referred to the fact that some of the materials they used could be recycled as part of their substantiation for the claim. The ASA ruled that this was insufficient to substantiate the broader implication about the environmental impact of the products across their lifecycle, and so the complaints were upheld (Howies Ltd, 23 April 2014; European Fur Breeders' Association, 21 March 2012). Advertisers should ensure that overarching claims are backed up by evidence applying to the product as a whole, rather than specific stages of its lifecycle.