NEWS18 October 2022

Control advertising of high carbon products, says report

Behavioural science Media News Public Sector Sustainability UK

UK – The government should regulate the advertising of environmentally damaging products and use behavioural science to a greater extent in its climate change policies, according to a House of Lords report.

Climate change protestor

The report, called In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals, also calls for “clear, consistent and actionable information” to help the public make positive choices to help the environment.

Advertising regulations, according to the report, could help counter ‘greenwashing’ and help restrict the advertising of high-carbon and environmentally damaging products, such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

The report added that the government should create standardised definitions of commonly used environmental terms to which businesses must adhere in marketing and labelling their products, and add misleading and/or unsubstantiated environmental claims to the list of banned practices under consumer law.

Measures should also be put in place to tackle misinformation and disinformation online about climate change.

“There is great potential to normalise behaviours associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts—including public transport use and active travel—through positive representations in broadcast television, advertising and on social media,” the report said.

“However, at present aspects of the media environment run in a contrary direction, for example the proportion of advertising devoted to SUVs and disinformation and misinformation on climate change available on social media.

“Despite welcome improvements in guidance for businesses around misleading environmental claims, more could be done to counter greenwashing, build consumer trust and ensure companies who market products and services associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts can compete fairly.”

The report said that behavioural science should also play a key role in developing a joined-up approach to help people overcome barriers to making low-carbon choices.

Too many policies, including advertising regulations, are encouraging high carbon choices, the report stated.

A public information campaign is needed to help people adapt their lifestyles in light of climate change, the report said, and gaps in government data on people’s behaviours should be filled to allow for better examination of how lifestyles are altering nationwide.

“The public want clear leadership from government and a coordinated approach from government to help them adapt,” the report added.

“The government must be more open about the changes to behaviour that will be needed to meet the UK’s climate and environmental goals.”