World Environment Day 2024

5 June is World Environment Day - established by the UN in 1972 as a vehicle for raising awareness about environmental issues and advocating for action.  This year the theme is ‘land restoration, desertification and drought resilience.’

Environmental claims in advertising are a key part of ASA/CAP work, with the organisations currently undertaking a wide-ranging project. But with advertisers keen to make environmental claims about everything from air travel, motoring and cosmetics to funeral services, what can you do to ensure your environmental claims don’t fall foul of the Code? 

Absolute claims should be fully substantiated

There are a few general considerations for advertisers when making environmental claims. Key among those, and an issue that the ASA has come across a lot recently, are absolute claims such as “eco-friendly” or “green”. The ASA is likely to uphold complaints about these when they’re not supported by a high level of substantiation. 

A ruling last year made clear that “eco-friendly” is an absolute claim that must be accompanied by a ‘life-cycle analysis of the product, demonstrating no harm to the planet – from manufacture to disposal’. Advertisers should exercise caution here, and bear in mind the same considerations can apply to less obvious products and services, such as electric scooter hire

Ensure the basis of the claim is clear

Advertisers should make sure the basis of their environmental claims is clear to consumers. They should take care to avoid ambiguous or overly technical claims that could confuse. 

This ruling examined whether the claim “Zero Emissions Cars” was misleading. The advertiser intended for the claim to be understood as a reference to the vehicle when driven. The ASA upheld the complaint as the basis of the claim was not explained.

Social responsibility

Following on from the Competition and Markets Authority’s guidance on Making environmental claims on goods and services, CAP updated its guidance to cover misleading claims and social responsibility issues last year.

The ASA has investigated and published rulings on social responsibility in relation to environmental issues on two occasions. Complaints that an ad for Jaguar Land Rover could encourage or condone behaviour that was detrimental to the environment were not upheld. The ASA concluded that the vehicle depicted in the ad was not being used irresponsibly. Complaints about ads for Toyota were upheld after the ASA concluded that the ads presented and condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment.

The ASA has investigated and published rulings covering a range of environmental issues. It upheld complaints about ads for a bank which focused on environmentally positive projects because they omitted information about the advertiser’s contribution to carbon and other emissions, as well as ads for airlines which were ruled to mislead about the environmental impact of air travel.

The project is ongoing, so keep an eye out for further rulings on environmental issues.

As always, there’s lots of advice on the subject on our website, and you can get free and confidential advice on your non-broadcast campaigns by contacting the CAP Copy Advice team.

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