In September, following the publication of its Green Claims Code the CMA put businesses on notice - they have until the New Year to make sure their environmental claims comply with the law. The ASA, who has been simultaneously reviewing the effectiveness of its own rules in governing environmental claims, has promised to be more proactive in tackling misleading green claims.
The ASA's proactivity is evidenced this week by a ruling in which the ASA upheld a claim against plant-based product manufacturer Alpro. The ad in question was for Alpro's plant based milk and yoghurt products and was seen on the side of a bus this time last year. The complainant challenged the ads' claims that almond milk was 'Good for the Planet' given the known environmental damage caused by commercial almond farming.
Alpro responded to the ASA stating that consumers would understand the wider context of the claims in the ad and in particular the notion that plant based products had a lower environmental impact the equivalent dairy-based products. Alpro stated that "shifting towards more plant-based diets was widely recognised as a way to lower the carbon footprint of the agri-food sector".
Despite this, the ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds that the CAP Code requires the basis of environmental claims to be clear. In this case, while Alpro provided analysis to demonstrate the environmental impact of two of the products featured in the ad it did not provide an assessment of the environmental impact of the third product. The claim 'Good for the Planet' in the context of this ad could be interpreted in more than one way and there was ambiguity as to what was intended by the claim. The ASA concluded that the basis of the claim, 'Good for the Planet', was unclear and the ad was therefore deemed to be misleading.
This ruling serves as a reminder that:
- greenwashing is the new hot topic for regulators - businesses beware, the regulation around this is only going to get more stringent and the resulting scrutiny more damaging (for more on this see my colleague Caroline Greenwell's recent article Don't Spin the Greenwashing, Caroline Greenwell (charlesrussellspeechlys.com); and
- when considering advertising copy remember, each and every environmental claim in an ad must be qualified - not giving regard to the wider context or overall message of the ad.
the CAP Code required that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and that unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information.