The ASA identifies key problem areas in advertisements related to the heating, energy and transport sectors
In the wake of the Government's "Green Claims Code" published in September 2021, the ASA published its own statement committing to take further action in relation to environmental claims in advertising. In this statement, the ASA committed to a series of enquiries into sector specific issues, starting with the Climate Change Committee's priority areas requiring carbon reduction, which included aviation, cars and heating.
The ASA's review began with issues in the energy, heating and transport sectors, partnering with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on its enquiry into green energy tariff reform. This was with the aim of producing new guidance for businesses operating in these areas which hones in on the specific issues identified.
The ASA published the findings of this first review in June 2022 and identified the following sector-specific claims as problem areas:
- Aspirational claims about a brand owner's intentions to transition to net zero by a particular date, and the evidence needed to back up such claims
- Claims by high emissions companies that focus on the narrow environmental benefits of their businesses without providing the whole picture
- Claims that energy tariffs are “green” or “renewable”, or that products are "carbon neutral" and "zero carbon", and the related evidence
- Claims in the hybrid and electric vehicle sectors, in particular zero emissions and self-charging claims (with further research to be published by the ASA on this soon)
- Advertisements in relation to air travel which claim to be ‘carbon neutral’ or similar
The ASA noted that it will follow up with targeted advice to identified brands to help them comply with the Advertising Codes on environmental claims. To help marketers and brand owners navigating this complex space, the ASA has also created a new dedicated page on its website which details its work on climate change and environmental claims, including links to its key rulings and further advice.
The ASA, as well as other regulators and government bodies, is increasingly scrutinising environmental claims made by businesses so it is crucial that any advertisements in this space are carefully planned to ensure compliance. It is clear from previous rulings that any environmental claims must be fully substantiated, and brand owners must be prepared to provide life-cycle analysis of the product demonstrating no harm to the planet (from manufacture to disposal). The basis of any such claims must also be clear and well explained to consumers.
In terms of what's next, the ASA has further investigations planned in relation to meat, dairy and plant-based substitute claims, as well as waste claims.
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