Watchdog to launch crackdown on ads falsely claiming green credentials

Advertising that encourages too many flights or carmakers that display SUVs tearing down the countryside will be subject to a crackdown on advertising that encourages irresponsible behavior.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), will launch a series inquiry into environmental advertising claims and practices in a variety of sectors, starting with energy, heating, and transport. This is in support of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions as well as combat the climate crisis.

The watchdog will continue to investigate green claims that companies make about waste. Next spring, it will be expanding its focus to include products that are biodegradable or recyclable. The spotlight will shift to meat and food sustainability advertising later in the year. This includes checking whether claims about environmental good practices by beef producers, which is a highly carbon-intensive industry.

Miles Lockwood is the director of investigations and complaints at the ASA. He says that the ASA will be focusing more regulatory attention in the next few years on social responsibility issues and misleadingness in relation to environmental claims in advertisements.

We are aware that the UK must make a significant, systemic change to achieve its climate targets. We are aware of the concern people have about advertisements that promote green credentials. We are confident that our efforts will continue to have a positive impact on the fight against climate change.

It will also conduct research to determine what the public thinks about terms like net zero and carbon neutral in order inform its claims policing. It will also examine the messages surrounding hybrid in the rapidly growing electric vehicle market.

Lockwood said that there are concerns about companies using green terms. Particularly, carbon neutral is becoming a very popular term. Many companies are claiming that their services do not add any carbon to the atmosphere.

We are interested in better understanding how companies use terms like these across industries, and how consumers interpret them, so our rules and guidelines are consistent with scientific, academic and environmental evidence. This will allow us to address misleading or irresponsible claims about green issues across media.

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In recent years, the watchdog has taken action against several large companies for making green claims in advertisements. Ryanair was caught using outdated information in order to claim that it was the UK's lowest-emission airline Shell and BMW.

The ASA is currently investigating complaints regarding a Land Rover Defender advertisement that showed one of the vehicles driving through a forest with the slogan "Life is so much more enjoyable without restrictions." The advert promotes irresponsibility and neglects to address the climate impact of SUVs, according to the complaints.

The ASA's sister body, the Committee of Advertising Practice, which sets the UK advertisement code across all media from TV and newspapers to billboards, and online, will issue new guidance for advertisers on misleading and socially irresponsible claims and advertising later in the year.

The Competition and Markets Authority announced Monday that it will launch its own review next year of misleading green claims.