The AANA developed the Environmental Claims Code in response to a growing array of ‘green’ claims being used in marketing. The Code is there to ensure that such claims are truthful and supportable by scientific evidence.
The environmental claim might appear as a symbol, so called ‘Ecolabels’, on packaging and in marketing material to signify a product’s adherence to a particular scheme and the environmental impact from producing or using a product.
Ecolabels, which are voluntary, are designed to inform the consumers that the labelled product, and related marketing, is more environmentally friendly than other products. These labels fall into several different categories including government introduced labels such as MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Scheme), WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme) and the Energy Star scheme.
Some ecolabels such as the Good Environmental Choice Australia “tick” fall into the category of third party certified labels which means organisations can self-declare compliance to scientific standards. Anything from detergents to furniture might promote this particular symbol.
Where a label claims a product is ‘biodegradable’, for example, the advertiser will need to be able to substantiate the claim and also detail the specifics of the claim in language which the average consumer can understand.
A recent complaint to the Ad Standards Board referred to biodegradable plastic cup lids in a poster which stated “Eco-Smart® hot cup lids – Truly biodegradable plastic the smart choice for sustainability. The additive in Castaway® Eco-Smart® cups allows the plastic to biodegrade through a series of chemical and biological processes when disposed of in microbe-rich landfill environments.” The Board considered that the use of the terminology and imagery in the ad was not presenting information in a manner which was designed to be misleading or deceptive but rather to inform consumers of new methods that are making plastics better for the environment.
The advertiser was able to supply supporting documentation relating to testing done by Victoria University of the product which documented that the advertised products did commence biodegrading – whereas unmodified plastic cups showed no significant extent of biodegrading. The Board considered that, in the context of the testing report provided by the advertiser, the statements that the advertisement contained regarding the biodegradability of the products was not misleading or deceptive. The complaint was dismissed.
Truthful, factual presentation, a genuine benefit to the environment and substantiation are the key elements of the AANA Environmental Claims in Advertising & Marketing Code – read more here.