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.
Travel marketers wishing to promote the green credentials of their products or services need to consider how the ASA is likely to interpret their claims and the sort of evidence required to substantiate environmental claims. Marketers should take Government guidance into account, including the Green Claims Code published by DEFRA and BIS, as well as adhering to Section 11 on Environmental claims in the CAP Code.
The Code requires the basis of environmental claims to be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information (rule 11.1). The meaning of all terms used must be clear to consumers (rule 11.2).
Marketers proposing to make claims based on future projections, should ensure that they are clear, based on accurate data and, if relevant, suitably qualified.
Claims such as “environmentally friendly” or claims synonymous with this, should not be used unless marketers can provide convincing evidence that their product will cause no environmental damage taking into account the full life cycle of the product. Marketers must ensure that claims which are based on only part of the advertised product’s life cycle, do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact (rule 11.4).
In 2010, complainants took issue with an ad which stated “Be eco-smart. Choose Finnair’s brand new fleet” because of the implication that that flying with Finnair was environmentally friendly and that a new fleet could be “eco-smart” compared to older planes. The ASA considered that in the absence of any qualification, the claim “Be eco-smart” was an absolute claim which implied that the planes would cause no environmental damage. The marketer was unable to demonstrate this, and the complaint was upheld. The ASA also considered that consumers were likely to understand from the ad that a comparison between flying with Finnair and other airlines was being made. The marketer supplied data which showed that they had been comparing their older MD-11 aircraft with their newer A330 and A340 Airbus aircraft. Because this was not made clear to readers with qualifying text, the claim was considered misleading (Finnair, 6 January 2010).
CO2 and low emissions
Marketers comparing the amount of CO2 produced per passenger with other forms of transport, should hold rigorous evidence to support their claims. They should include the source of their data and ensure that the basis of a claim is made clear.
An ad which appeared in the Newcastle regional press stated "Our planes are on average 2.7 years old, unlike Jet2 whose planes average 20 years of age. Because our planes are younger, they are more efficient and less damaging to the environment…Fly greener, fly easy Jet." In this case, the ASA noted that easy Jet’s data showed that the claim "less damaging to the environment" was supported on a CO2 per passenger per kilometre basis, because their load factor (the number of available seats they had filled) was higher than Jet 2s in 2007 and 2008, rather than because easy Jet's planes were younger. The ad was considered misleading because the ad gave the impression that it was “greener” for an individual to fly with easy Jet’s younger planes than with Jet2, and the basis of the comparison was not made clear. See Travel: Comparisons
More recently, a complaint about an ad promoting FirstBus buses which stated, “We love…low emissions…Our buses produce 4.97% less carbon than conventional diesel buses” was upheld. The ASA noted that, at the time, the Government had announced that 542 new low carbon buses would be put on roads across England, which would produce 30% less CO2 than conventional buses. It considered that consumers could have been misled into believing that FirstGroup's buses were comparable to those low emissions buses, however they only produced 4.97% less CO2, not the stated 30% (FirstGroup plc, 25 January 2012).
See Travel marketing: Comparisons, the associated entries on “Travel marketing”, Environmental claims: General, Environmental claims: Motoring, Environmental claims: General “Green” claims and the associated entries on “Environmental claims”