Laying your misleading “green” claims to rest

Marketers are keen to point to the green credentials of their products and services, and the funeral sector is no exception. However, it’s important that such claims are accurate and do not mislead consumers at what is likely to be a difficult time.

The ASA recently found 'green' and 'eco-friendly' claims being made by a coffin manufacturer and funeral provider to be misleading.

Here are three tips to ensure your ads stick to the rules:

1. Be careful with absolute claims

Absolute claims must be supported by a high level of substantiation, so advertisers should ensure they have robust and relevant evidence before claiming that a product or service is ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’. The basis of environmental claims must also be clear.

In a recent ruling against a coffin manufacturer, the ASA found that an unqualified “eco-friendly” claim would be understood to mean that the coffins listed on that section of the website would have either no impact or an overall beneficial impact on the environment over their full life cycle, including burial or cremation. Because that wasn’t shown to be the case, the claim was ruled to be misleading.

Comparative claims such as "greener" or "friendlier" might be acceptable if the advertiser holds evidence that the product provides a total environmental benefit over their previous product or competitor products, and the basis of the comparison is made clear.

2. Account for the full life cycle

Unless ads state otherwise, environmental claims should be based on the full lifecycle of the advertised product. Claims based on only part of the advertised product’s lifecycle must make clear the limits of the lifecycle, so they do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.

Because there are many things that might contribute to a funeral’s environmental impact, it is particularly important that funeral providers support environmental claims with evidence that relates to their service as a whole. The ASA recently ruled that a “Green funeral” claim was misleading on the basis that the advertiser did not provide evidence that covered every aspect of their plans.

3. Exaggeration and “100% recycled” claims

Marketers should be careful not to exaggerate the recycled content of their product(s) by not accounting for all materials used in the manufacture of it.

One advertiser claimed that their coffins were made of “100% recycled cardboard” and provided evidence to show that much of the carboard used was made from recycled paper. However, they were unable to provide evidence to show that other materials, including the coffin’s outer layer and glue, were recycled. Because of that, the claim was ruled to be misleading.

For more advice on this topic, take a look at our work on climate change and environment claims, and if you need bespoke advice on your non-broadcast ads our Copy Advice team are happy to help.

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