Earlier this month, on 5 June, World Environment Day was celebrated globally. Whilst many brands used this as an opportunity to reiterate their green credentials and statements on environmental awareness, the issue is becoming increasingly important. From a brand perspective, the importance comes not only from the urgent need to do more to protect our planet, but also from consumer perception. Purchasing decisions can be swayed by the steps being taken by brands to support environmental causes. For example, I've recently switched my home energy provider to one that specialises in supplying sustainable energy.
To coincide with World Environment Day, the ASA released a guidance note explaining their view on environmental claims in ads. See also my blog post from earlier this year giving a short history of the ASA's approach to ads containing environmental claims.
The ASA's guidance note can broadly be summarised as 'don't lie and make sure you have sufficient substantiation'. I've set out some of the key issues below:
Energy providers claiming to offer '100% renewable energy' (see Eneco UK Ltd ruling) must be able to prove that all the energy they produce is from renewable sources. Any such statements must also be accompanied by a notice making it clear that the energy will be provided via the national grid and not directly to the consumer's home (*makes mental note to check own provider...*)
When making claims about the recyclability of a product, "appropriate evidence" is required (see Carpet Recycling UK Ltd ruling), including whether the claim relates to the whole or just part of the product.
The ASA guidance makes clear that any environmental claims must be supported by a "high level of substantiation" (see Ryanair ruling). This also applies when making any claim that a product is 'greener' or 'environmentally friendly'. Adequate substantiation will be required to defend any complaint relating to the claim. The burden of proof is enhanced where an ad claims the product or service has "no impact on the environment".
Once again, any emissions claims for vehicles should be "suitably qualified" and official figures provided. This also applies to ads containing information about fuel consumption and the figures must reflect driving in 'real-life'.
So, environmental claims can be acceptable but must be supported by first-rate evidence.