The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is warning consumers about advertising ‘green’ claims that turn out to be little more than hot air. Coinciding with the Trading Standards Annual Conference, where this issue is high on the agenda, the ASA is raising consumer awareness of misleading ads, reminding advertisers of the rules and why it is not always easy being green.
Over the last few months the ASA has investigated and upheld seven complaints against advertisers who have made unsubstantiated environmental claims. From carbon offsetting targets by energy providers to improved pollution figures by car manufacturers, green claims are becoming noticeably more prevalent in ads. The ASA rulings send out a clear message to advertisers about what is and is not acceptable under the advertising codes.
There are already specific rules on environmental claims in place and the ASA has created a checklist for advertisers who are thinking of going green:
• Get your facts right. Don’t exaggerate the environmental benefits of your product: advertising claims should be backed up with documentary evidence
• This is an area where scientific knowledge is developing all the time. Don’t present claims as being universally accepted if the science is inconclusive
• Don’t use pseudo-science, or terms that will not be generally understood by the readers of your ad
• Avoid sweeping or absolute claims such as “environmentally friendly” or “wholly biodegradable”. It’s unlikely that you will be able to prove your product has no environmental impact
• Saying something is ‘locally’ produced should mean exactly that. Shipping goods in from abroad or the other end of the country doesn’t make them ‘locally sourced’.
Beyond providing information to consumers on this topic in a ‘live issue’ section on its website the ASA is also driving the green message home at its stand at the Trading Standards Conference.
Of the increase in advertising green claims, ASA Director General, Christopher Graham says: “Advertisers have every right to promote their green credentials and many have been quick to reassure consumers about the efforts they are making to be greener. However the ASA needs to see robust evidence to back up any eco-friendly claims. We will continue to ensure that the public are not misled and that advertisers are operating in a climate of truth.”
26 June 2007
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