What are the advertising rules for making environmental claims?
According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), marketing claims must be clear, truthful, accurate and not misleading. Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product’s life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.
What do consumers think when they see environmental claims?
Financial organisations, utilities, telecoms and governments are increasingly encouraging their customers to go “paperless”. But switching to digital is not always welcome as many consumers value paper-based communication.
A survey conducted by Two Sides in 2021 found that 74% of consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from their service providers. A further 54% believe they should not be charged more for choosing paper bills or statements and 49% agree that when a service provider asks them to switch to electronic bills and statements, and they say it’s better for the environment, it’s really about cost saving.
According to Keep Me Posted, 7 million people in the UK can’t use the Internet, even if they wanted to: because of poverty, disability and rurality. There are over 10.5 million people who lack the confidence to use the Internet for transactions. Together that is nearly 1 in 5 of the British population.
Two Sides actively engages organisations found to be using unsubstantiated environmental claims about the use of paper. To date, over 70% of companies engaged by Two Sides have changed or removed misleading messages.
For all customer facing copy, it is important to avoid making any unsubstantiated claims regarding switching from paper to electronic formats.
– Brendan McNamara, Head of NGO Engagement, HSBC
We are conscious of our overall environmental impact and want to support our customers reduce their impact and want to support our customers reduce their impact too. We do, however, appreciate the environmental impact is complex, and definitely don’t want our communications to be misleading.
– Severn Trent
What to do if you find misleading environmental claims?
Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organisations found to be misleading consumers by using environmental claims about the use of paper. However, we need the help of our eagle-eyed supporters! Keep your eyes peeled for other examples of Greenwash and report them to us.
Please send any instances of greenwash to firstname.lastname@example.org