In December 2021, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of advertising Practice (CAP) published guidance to help advertisers understand and apply the existing rules on misleading environmental claims and social responsibility. The guidance includes practical examples of claims in ads that may be problematic, including references to ASA rulings where complaints were upheld.
The new guidance is intended to be consistent with the Green Claims Code published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in September 2021 (see our previous blog post).
The ASA says in its press release that it plans to take a stricter interpretation of the Code rules in relation to environmental ads and confirms that the ASA will be shining a "brighter regulatory spotlight" on environmental ads going forward.
The ASA plans to prioritise research into consumer perception of "carbon neutral" and "net zero" claims in ads, as well as claims in the electric vehicle market. It will also launch an enquiry into claims relating to: heating, energy and transport; waste (for example, claims relating to recyclable/recycling, biodegradable/compostable and plastic alternatives); and meat-based, dairy and other forms of food sustainability issues - with follow up action on any areas of identified concern. The ASA has said it is likely that issue-specific guidance for businesses will be produced in the light of this work.
The CMA has also started a review of environmental claims in the UK fashion retail sector, investigating how products and services claiming to be “eco-friendly” are being marketed and whether consumers could be misled (see here). The CMA plans to look at other sectors (e.g. travel and transport, and fast-moving consumer goods such as food and beverages, beauty products and cleaning products) in due course.