ASA plans green claims guidance and crackdown

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reviewed its regulation of environmental claims and found “there is significant scope for businesses to make mistakes, and to mislead […] which can lead to consumer detriment and harm to the planet”. However, complaints relating to such issues have been few.

The ASA has been reviewing its approach as pressure mounts on businesses to take action on a range of environmental issues, including reducing carbon emissions and achieving net-zero.

“Expectations are rising for businesses to play a more prominent role in encouraging responsible consumer consumption behaviours,” the ASA wrote in an update on its website. “Businesses are increasingly wanting to burnish their eco-credentials, but the issues encountered in this area can be complex and hard for them to navigate.”  

The ASA believes “sufficient and comprehensive rules [are] already in place to tackle misleading and socially irresponsible ads about the environment”. But it wants to “go further, to crack down on misleading and socially irresponsible environmental advertising and to do so in the context framed by government and key priorities identified by experts”.

Later this year its sister body, the Committee of Advertising Practice, will issue advertising guidance to industry that sets out the key principles advertisers need to follow to ensure their ads are not misleading. This will complement that recently produced by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Much like the CMA it will also start paying much closer attention to the green claims being made. A series of “enquiries into specific issues” will start next year. Waste will be a priority target, with the ASA looking at claims around recyclability, biodegradability and “plastic alternatives” in spring 2022. Food sustainability (in particular animal-based products) will be a focus later next year.

The ASA is also about to commission research into consumer understanding of carbon neutral and net-zero claims.”[We] will be shining a brighter regulatory spotlight on advertising issues that relate to climate change and the environment in the coming months and years,” the regulator warned.

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