NEWS24 September 2021

UK advertising regulator to crack down on greenwashing

Media News Sustainability Trends UK

UK – The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) plans to increase its regulation on  ‘problematic ad claims’ from brands about sustainability and climate issues.

Shopping bag sustainability environment eco_crop

After carrying out a review of its regulation on the topic, the watchdog will conduct a series of enquiries on specific areas including aviation, cars, waste, animal-based foods and heating.

This will include monitoring claims about products being ‘recyclable’ and ‘biodegradable’ or described as ‘plastic alternative’.

ASA’s sister body, the Committee of Advertising Practice, will also issue advertising guidance later this year on making sure ads don’t mislead consumers about the environment.

“That guidance will re-affirm that the ASA will be shining a brighter regulatory spotlight on environmental matters in the years to come and tightening up our positions on problematic ad claims where there is an evidence base to do so,” the ASA said in a statement. 

The move follows the UK government setting a legally binding target of a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035. The UK’s Climate Change Committee has also established that the reduction of consumption emissions is necessary.  

The ASA’s review found that its previous record of addressing misleading advertising in the space tallied with other ad regulatory bodies in Europe, but that the issues encountered when making environmental claims can be complex, meaning there is significant scope for businesses to make mistakes and mislead people.

Additionally, ads that encourage unsustainable behaviours or behaviours likely to harm the environment will require greater regulatory scrutiny in future, the ASA added.

It will commission research this autumn on consumer understanding of carbon neutral and net zero claims and research to understand consumer perceptions of hybrid claims in the electric vehicle market, which it has identified as priority areas to explore.

The ASA expects that this research will inform additional guidance in 2022, when further research will follow on other topics.

Additionally, the ASA said it plans to publish learning resources and training materials for businesses on its website, in the lead up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.