6 Ads Banned for Greenwashing by the UK’s Advertising Watchdog

May 27, 2023 | blog

The Advertising Standards Authority is requiring corporations to vary or take down commercials for being deceptive on local weather claims.

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(Bloomberg) — The UK’s promoting regulator has made greater than 20 enforcement actions in opposition to greenwashing. Targets of the Advertising Standards Authority — together with airways, banks and automakers — supply perception into a few of the methods corporations deceive shoppers about sustainability. Ads that find yourself within the crosshairs have to be altered or nixed within the UK.

The ASA’s crackdown mirrors scrutiny of greenwashing within the European Union, which earlier this yr recognized widespread phrases and phrases corporations use to mislead folks. Both the ASA and European Commission level to greenwashing methods that embrace unclear comparisons, obscure buzzwords and lacking caveats.

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“We know that the public is increasingly engaged with their carbon footprint and want to make ethical environmental choices,” ASA Chief Executive Officer Guy Parker wrote in a weblog submit final yr. “Advertisers need to be honest about their environmental impact.”

Here are six examples of greenwashing, based on the ASA. 

The promise of guilt-free flying

Air journey is an inherently polluting exercise, and improvements like battery-powered planes and sustainable aviation gas aren’t prepared for primetime. That makes it troublesome for airways to supply particular claims about emissions discount, so as an alternative they’re conserving issues free. Two airways, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Etihad Airways, have had adverts banned within the UK for overstating their environmental affect.

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As a part of its #MakeChangeFly marketing campaign, Lufthansa final yr debuted an advert that options the slogan “Connecting the World. Protecting its Future.” The ASA dominated in March that the advert couldn’t run within the UK as a result of there are “currently no environmental initiatives or commercially viable technologies in the aviation industry which would substantiate the absolute green claim” that Lufthansa is defending the world’s future.

At the time, a Lufthansa spokeswoman stated the poster in query was half of a bigger marketing campaign “that provided comprehensive information about the numerous measures the Lufthansa Group is undertaking in environmental matters” to halve its internet carbon emissions by 2030 and attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

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Less than two months later, the ASA focused Etihad Airways over adverts it promoted on Facebook final yr, which urged the Abu Dhabi-based airline is “taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation.” Explaining its ban, the ASA stated the declare “exaggerated the impact that flying with Etihad would have on the environment.” 

Etihad stated it was disenchanted by ASA’s resolution. “Sustainability is a key priority for Etihad,” the corporate stated in a press release, citing its funding in fuel-efficient plane, sustainable aviation gas and carbon offsetting.

Banks can’t omit their oil work

Finance and banking are on the middle of the worldwide methods that fund fossil gas funding and growth. Those relationships are sometimes opaque for shoppers, and the UK promoting watchdog has taken a tricky line on advertising and marketing that retains it that method.

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Like many large banks, HSBC has been the goal of widespread criticism for its funding of oil and gasoline tasks. A poster advert that ran in 2021 sought to handle these considerations by publicizing a aim “to provide up to $1 trillion in financing and investment globally to help our clients transition to net zero.”

Adfree Cities, a community of UK teams campaigning in opposition to company promoting billboards, complained to the ASA in regards to the advert. The group argued that HSBC continues to fund polluting industries, and the ASA agreed that the majority shoppers wouldn’t know that. The regulator instructed HSBC to make sure that future adverts mentioning the surroundings are “adequately qualified.”

At the time, a UK-based spokesperson for HSBC stated that “the financial sector has a responsibility to communicate its role in the low-carbon transition to raise public awareness and engage its customers, so we will consider how best to do this as we deliver our ambitious net-zero commitments.”

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The financial institution has argued that its net-zero emissions plan is in step with tips set by the United Nations, and that it’s aligned with the strategy advisable by the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. HSBC additionally famous that International Energy Agency estimates present that there’ll nonetheless be a necessity for some oil and gasoline in 2050, making a full withdrawal from financing unrealistic.

Kinder cleansing merchandise 

Even shoppers with a obscure sense of laundry’s environmental affect won’t perceive the specifics: Washing machines and garments dryers use vital vitality and water, and extreme washing and drying degrades cloth high quality, which might result in extra vogue waste and clothes fibers polluting waterways.

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Last yr, British client items firm Unilever Plc touted its Persil laundry detergent with the slogan, “Tough on strains, kinder to our planet.” The detergent works nicely in a chilly, fast wash, based on the advert, and the bottle is created from 50% recycled plastic (excluding the cap and label).

The ASA instructed Unilever that “kinder” was an unclear declare, as a result of the advert provided no foundation of comparability. The ASA stated Unilever additionally failed to clarify the affect of the whole life cycle of its product, from manufacturing to make use of to disposal. 

A spokesperson for Unilever instructed the BBC that’s was “disappointed” with the ASA’s conclusion. “We are committed to making ongoing improvements to all our products to make them more sustainable and will continue to look at how we can share this with our shoppers,” Unilever stated. 

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Plant-based guarantees 

Two totally different claims that non-dairy milk is environmentally superior to cow’s milk have resulted in motion from the ASA.

In 2020, a bus advert for almond and soy milk from Alpro (a part of Danone SA), claimed the drinks had been “good for the planet.” The ASA known as the declare “ambiguous” — what did Alpro imply by good? The firm countered that buyers would perceive it was evaluating plant-based milk and dairy milk. “We are disappointed about this outcome given that plant-based drinks… have a significantly lower environmental impact than dairy products,” Alpro stated in a press release on the time. 

In a sequence of adverts, Swedish firm Oatly Group AB additionally made claims about its merchandise’ environmental advantages, together with that its oat milk generated “73% less CO2e vs. milk,” and that the “dairy and meat industries emit more CO2e than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc. combined.” 

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Oatly based mostly its claims on good sources, together with UN analysis and scientific research. But the ASA banned its adverts, saying the corporate wasn’t being specific sufficient in its comparisons. (For instance, the ASA stated Oatly hadn’t made clear that it was evaluating plant-based milk to entire cow’s milk.) At the time, an Oatly spokesperson instructed The Guardian that the corporate “could have been more specific in the way we described some of the scientific data.”

How inexperienced is your garden?

Using plastic grass as an alternative of the actual factor could look like an apparent environmental hazard. But final yr two corporations obtained in hassle with the ASA after they tried to reassure shoppers that making such a swap would have environmental advantages.

One firm, Evergreens, claimed its plastic grass was “eco-friendly,” with advantages corresponding to “the air-purifying effects of one mature tree.” The ASA stated the grass being plastic overruled any advantages from transporting it in a extra environment friendly method or exploring recycling choices, including that Evergreens didn’t have sufficient proof to make the “mature tree” comparability. 

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A second firm, Perfectly Green, stated its “Soul Eco-grass” plastic grass was “recyclable,” a declare referred to the ASA by the marketing campaign group Plastics Rebellion. The ASA stated the grass was created from two sorts of plastic that needed to be separated for recycling, and famous that the UK didn’t have the appropriate infrastructure to course of it. It additionally known as the title “eco-grass” deceptive. Perfectly Green stated it could regulate future advertising and marketing communications. 

Clean as you drive 

Hydrogen automobiles could imply cleaner air, however do they clear the air? That distinction tripped up the Korean automobile firm Hyundai Motor Co. in a 2021 advert for its NEXO automobile, which is powered by a hydrogen gas cell. On its web site, the automaker claimed its automobile was “so beautifully clean, it purifies the air as it goes.” 

The NEXO has an onboard air filter, designed to provide cleaner air to permit the gas cell to work correctly. But the ASA stated the automobile nonetheless created air pollution; particularly, tiny particles from its brakes and tires. The advert may make shoppers assume, incorrectly, that the automobile didn’t depart any impurities behind within the air. In the UK at the very least, Hyundai couldn’t run the advert once more.


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