Advertising regulator to crack down on eco-whitewashed ads

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Plastic wrap

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will issue new guidelines to ensure ads don’t mislead people about the environment.

The regulator will launch investigations to analyze environmental claims made by companies in sectors such as energy, waste and transport.

He found that there is currently a “significant margin” for companies to make mistakes.

The ASA will also commission research into carbon neutral and net zero promises made in advertisements.

The review will “shine the spotlight more on regulation” to ensure that companies are socially responsible when reviewing environmental issues.

Recent examples where the ASA discovered that companies were misleading customers about environmental credentials include a banned advertising campaign by Ryanair in which it claimed to have the CO2 emissions of the lowest airlines.

Food company Gousto has also made false claims that its packaging is “100% plastic-free and recyclable” after an ASA ruling last year.

In its research on environmental claims so far, the ASA has said it is evident that the problems encountered when making claims that “relate to the environment can be complex.” He said deceptive ads can cause “damage to consumers and the planet”.

The watchdog added that “as the scale of the challenge of avoiding catastrophic climate change becomes increasingly clear, advertising and, by extension, advertising regulation must play their part in achieving the goals. agreed climatic conditions ”.

Miles Lockwood, director of complaints and investigations at ASA, said: “We know there has to be systemic and large-scale change for the UK to meet the government’s climate targets.”

“From our history of tightly regulating environmental claims to today’s announcement, we believe our work will continue to positively influence the fight against climate change,” he continued.

Sylvia Rook, a senior official at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, told the BBC: “It is difficult to take such cases to court, especially to get expert evidence to prove that the claims are false. “

“However, it is important that consumers contact Trading Standards through the Citizen Advice Consumer Hotline if they are concerned about misleading green claims, so that these claims can be investigated and investigated. appropriate action is taken, whether it is advising the company or taking more formal action., “she added.

‘Precise information’

Welcoming the plans, James Martin, policy director of the UK Chambers of Commerce industry body, said: “The BCC fully supports the UK campaign towards Net Zero, but of course it needs to be done in a reasonable way. “

Mr Martin said “honest businesses” need to have “clear information on which to plan and act” in order to meet the UK’s net zero targets.

“We welcome this step as an appropriate action that will help businesses get this information.”

Smoke rises from industrial chimneys in Greece

Smoke rises from industrial chimneys in Greece

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also made its own announcement on Monday, which included issuing a “Green Claims Code” to help businesses comply with the law.

The AMC also warned that it “stands ready to take action against violating companies” and will conduct a full review of the misleading green claims early next year.

‘Creeping greenwash’

Andrea Coscelli, CEO of CMA, said: “We are concerned that too many companies are wrongly taking the credit for being green, while truly environmentally friendly companies are not getting the recognition that they deserve.

“Any company that does not respect the law risks damaging its reputation with customers and could be subject to prosecution by the CMA,” he added.

Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker think tank, also welcomed the announcement and said it was “high time to tackle widespread greenwashing in the oil and gas industry head-on.”

In ASA’s research on the impact of carbon commitments, they will also strive to understand consumer perceptions regarding hybrid claims in the electric vehicle market, consumer food emissions, and claims that packaging are “recyclable”, “biodegradable” or an “alternative to plastic”.

Mr Campanale said that Carbon Tracker, which studies carbon commitments, also wondered how oil companies like Shell, with Net Zero-2050 ambitions, can “honestly intend to meet them, while committing to increase future gas production “.

“One company, BP, has recognized that emission reductions mean absolute reductions in production. It is time for others, like Shell, to join them – with a recent court ruling in The Hague forcing Shell to cut its 45% emissions by 2030. “

Shell did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment.


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