ASA to crack down on greenwashing

29/10/2021

If you have ever been confused about claims of environmental responsibility or wondered about their accuracy, then you are not alone. So much so that with an increasing number of complaints the ASA has taken it upon itself to review the situation, issue further guidance, and enforce if necessary.

Think of the environment

It seems that wherever you look these days companies and organisations are competing to promote their own environmental credentials. Whether it is carbon neutral, net zero, renewable, sustainable or other such vocabulary, seemingly everyone wants to voice the responsible nature of their wares.

It is easy to see why. With climate change in the headlines on a daily basis, environmental considerations are not only high on the domestic political agenda but of great concern to those suffering the effects. With this in mind it is understandable that everyone wants to “do their bit” by championing the green cause.

Greenwash

So far, so good. But for the average consumer it can be incredibly difficult to determine whether such a laudable claim is genuine, or whether it is simply unsubstantiated or confusing greenwash.

Thankfully, the situation has caught the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority which is in the process of reviewing its regulation of advertisements making environmental claims. It has commissioned the Committee of Advertising Practice to issue guidance in the form of key principals that advertisers must follow to avoid misleading environmental claims.

Such guidance will work in conjunction with recently issued guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority. In their own words, the ASA will be “shining a brighter regulatory spotlight” on environmental matters.

Specific Issues

A number of specific issues have already caught the eye of the ASA. Initially their work will focus on the energy, heating, and transport sectors. Once concluded the regulator plans to shift its focus to claims in the waste sector about recyclability and biodegradable properties.Sustainable food issues are also due for a closer look.

Consumer understanding

The third specific area for the ASA’s review is to research consumer understanding of various advertised terms. Priority areas here include terms such as “Carbon Neutral” and “Net Zero”. Separately the ASA is seeking greater understanding of how consumers interpret claims about hybrid vehicles.

Enforcement

The ASA has been keen to point out that the current rules are sufficient to tackle socially irresponsible and misleading claims. But in an ever evolving marketplace the ASA has indicated its intention to crack down on those who mislead and promote irresponsible claims. Best practice therefore must be for advertisers to review the ASA guidance and be clear with any claims which may otherwise be ambiguous or misleading.

More information

For more information please contact our Company Commercial team here.

This article was written by Edward Garston, Partner in our Company & Commerical Team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of October 2021.

29/10/2021

Authors

Edward Garston

Partner

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