Earlier this year we wrote about “greenwashing” and the partnership of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in reviewing the practice. In September the CMA published its guidance to support businesses in ensuring any environmental claims they make do not mislead consumers. In the wake of COP26, with environmental concerns assuming an ever more prominent position in the current zeitgeist and being a key consideration for many consumers when making brand choices, it is worth that guidance being foregrounded.
What does the Green Claims Code say?
The CMA’s guidance, known as the Green Claims Code, encompasses the following six principles:
- Claims must be truthful and accurate.
- Claims must be clear and unambiguous.
- Claims must not hide or omit information.
- Comparisons must be fair and meaningful.
- In making the claim, a business must consider the full life cycle of the product or service.
- Claims must be substantiated.
Companies should adhere to these principles when making claims about the environmental credentials of a product or service, or risk facing enforcement action when the CMA begins its review of misleading claims in 2022. Companies, therefore, have until the end of this year to stop any misleading practices.
The ASA has also confirmed that it will be scrutinising environmental matters more closely to complement the Green Claims Code, looking into specific issues in aviation, cars, waste, animal-based foods and heating, as these areas have been identified as a priority by the Climate Change Committee. This autumn, ASA-commissioned research is looking into consumer understanding of “carbon neutral” and “net zero” claims, as well as perceptions of “hybrid” claims in the electric vehicle market.
Climate change is a global challenge and advertising can play an important part in sustainable behaviours and products, helping consumers to make greener choices. The latest guidance from the CMA and ASA serves as a reminder to the industry to use its influence responsibly.