An Instagram post by Brewdog, published on 31 July 2023, featured an image of a poster, containing a childlike drawing of Earth covered in flames. Text accompanying the drawing stated “drink it for me” in the style of a child’s handwriting. Text on the other half of the poster stated “BEER FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN”, alongside an image of Brewdog Punk IPA Lager, and a badge with the text “Positive Planet CERTIFIED CARBON NEGATIVE COMPANY”. The caption stated “Beer for your Grandchildren. From the World’s First Carbon Negative brewery. Find out how we’re working to ensure we have a planet to enjoy beer on via the link in our bio”.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was misleading because it failed to make the basis of the carbon negative claim clear.
Brewdog highlighted that Instagram did not permit links to be included within the caption. Instead, they explained that the caption directed consumers to their Instagram “bio” which included a link to a web page detailing the basis of the claim, particularly: that carbon avoided or removed from the atmosphere resulting from their investment in nature based projects was greater than the carbon emitted in making their beer; plus statistics relating to BrewDog’s carbon reduction achievements and offsetting; and a link to BrewDog’s Positive Planet Carbon Negative Company Certificate.
A further link was included on that page which explained Brewdog’s wider sustainability projects. They said that, given the small scale of the photo and the space and functionality constraints of Instagram, directing consumers to refer to a link in the “bio” for more information was standard practice and that consumers were accustomed to that. They re-iterated that the link explained the basis of the carbon negative claim contained in the ad and substantiated the claim.
Furthermore, Brewdog emphasised that the image of the poster contained the Positive Planet certification, an independent organisation that had certified their carbon negative credentials. They further detailed that Positive Planet had used the Green House Gas Protocol, which was an internationally recognised methodology and approved by the UK government, to calculate their emissions. They believed that the clear reference to the Positive Planet certification in the ad provided an additional signpost which would guide consumers to an explanation of the ad’s claims. They explained that an internet search of “Brewdog Positive Planet” would direct consumers to various web pages which detailed the certification and provided a definition of carbon negative.
The CAP Code required that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and stated that unqualified claims could mislead if material information was omitted. CAP Guidance stated that advertisers should avoid using unqualified carbon neutral claims, and because information explaining the basis for those claims helped consumers’ understanding, such information should therefore not be omitted. It further stated that accurate information about whether (and the degree to which) the claim was based on active reduction carbon emissions or based on offsetting should be included in ads to ensure consumers understood the basis on which carbon neutrality was achieved.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ad that Brewdog was a carbon negative brewery, meaning that, as a business, they had a net effect of removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they emitted. We considered, within that context, the text “BEER FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN” reinforced the carbon negative claim.
However, we considered that there was no information provided in the ad which explained the basis of Brewdog’s “carbon negative” accreditation or the claim “BEER FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN”. Although we acknowledged that the ad referred consumers to a link for the Brewdog website which contained further information about their carbon reduction and offsetting project, we considered that the ad itself did not include information which explained the basis of the claim. Without that information, we considered that consumers would not have sufficient information to understand the basis of the environmental claims in the ad. We also noted the inclusion of the Positive Planet carbon negative badge within the image of the poster. Again, we considered that was not sufficient to make the basis of the environmental claim clear because it did not provide information in the ad on the basis for the “carbon negative” claim.
We acknowledged Brewdog’s argument that, owing to space and functionality constraints, it was standard practice to direct consumers to links housed in the “bio” for further information. The claims appeared in an Instagram post, the caption of which was limited to 2,200 characters. We therefore did not consider the ad to be limited by space, and in any case, we considered the use of a completely unqualified “carbon negative” claim would be likely to mislead.
Because there was no qualifying information in the ad which outlined the basis for Brewdog’s “carbon negative” claim, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 11.1 (Environmental claims).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Brewdog Plc to ensure the basis of environmental claims was clear in future ads.