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ASA Claims – Environmental

What is the Issue?

As consumers are becoming more conscious of the environmental impacts of their products and services, Companies are increasingly finding value in sustainable practices and using these as currency in their marketing campaigns. Consumers and other businesses are often prepared to pay a premium for “sustainable” or ethical products and support the brands which sell them. Inevitably, this creates a temptation to over-state or misstate the environmental credentials in marketing. This has been termed as ‘greenwashing’ and is firmly within the focus of appropriate regulatory bodies. On that basis, companies need to be very careful when using environmental claims to ensure they stay on the right side of the line.

Advertising in the UK is regulated by two bodies – the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) who create the codes on advertising, and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) who enforce the codes. In general, the CAP Code principles state all adverts should be legal, decent, honest, truthful, and in line with the principles of fair competition. There are also additional rules for environmental claims including requiring that any claims can be substantiated and are clear to consumers.

Example – Innocent

One example of a recent complaint made to the ASA was in relation to an Innocent YouTube and TV advertisement. The advert was centred around recycling and included a song with lyrics “Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Because there is no planet B.” There were 26 complainants who challenged whether the advert exaggerated the “total environmental benefit of the products” and was, in doing so, misleading consumers. Innocent argued that their adverts were seeking to promote recycling of Innocent products but also recycling more generally but that they were not suggesting that purchasing Innocent products themselves would lead to a positive environmental impact.

The ASA considered the adverts created a strong association between Innocent Drinks and a positive impact on the environment and so would be interpreted as Innocent was an environmentally friendly brand and that purchasing their products had environmental benefits. The ASA’s view is that Innocent did not substantiate that their products had a net positive impact on the environment and so the adverts were held to be misleading. As a result, Innocent are unable to run the ads as they were and were warned against making these sorts of claims without a clear basis in future campaigns.

How We Can Help

Here at CG, we have experience in assisting clients in a range of sectors to ensure that their marketing and advertising strategies are compliant with applicable legislation and regulations, whilst retaining their commerciality and creativeness. We can work with you (and your marketing teams) to ensure that your advertising campaigns accurately and truthfully represents your goods and services within the confines of the regulatory and legislative landscape. Rather than rejecting a marketing campaign outright, we help our clients to understand the potential risks whilst working together to find an alternative that can achieve the same impact.

We can also provide training workshops to our clients’ legal, sales, and marketing teams to empower them by better understanding the applicable framework and key messages.

Pricing for our Copy Clearance Service can be offered on a fixed or retainer basis, depending on the nature of assistance you need.

If you’d like to find out more, please contact one of the members of our Commercial Team.