Going green? Ask yourself these questions before making any environmental claims

Environmental claims can be a powerful marketing tool. With consumers becoming more conscious about their impact on the environment, many Australian brands are aligning their products, services, and business practices to the environmentally friendly expectations of the public.

However with great power comes great responsibility. Advertisers have a positive obligation to be truthful in their claims and must avoid misleading or deceiving consumers on the environmental benefits of their products and services at all times.

 

What is an environmental claim?

Under the AANA Environmental Claims Code, an environmental claim is the express or implied representation that any part of a product or service interacts with or influences the environment.

Put simply, it’s when an advertiser states or implies that any part of a product or service has:

  • a benefit to the environment; or
  • no effect on the environment; or
  • no or only limited effect on the environment if used or delivered in a particular way.

This also applies to the consumption, use, interaction or disposal of the product or service.

Truthful, factual presentation, a genuine benefit to the environment and substantiation are the key elements of the Environmental Claims Code.

 

So how can you keep your claims in line with the rules? Here are four questions to ask yourself when making an environmental claim in your ads:
 

1. Is this claim true?

Sticking to the facts is the best way to make sure you don’t misrepresent your product or service’s environmental benefit. When assessing an environmental claim, the Ad Standards Community Panel looks at whether a regular person in the target market would be misled or deceived by the information – so make sure your claims are clear and unambiguous. It’s your reputation at stake.
 

2. Can I prove this claim is true?

Substantiating your claim is essential. Claims need to be based on hard evidence that is verifiable and valid. We recommend staying away from any unqualified general claims that are hard to back up with evidence, such as:

      •  ‘green’

      •  ‘environmentally friendly’

      •  ‘energy efficient’

      •  ‘renewable’.
 

3. Does it actually benefit the environment?

A little puffery in advertising can be expected, however you should never overstate the benefit your product or service has on the environment. You should also tell the whole story – never hide or omit important information.
 

4. Should I run this past Ad Standards?

Navigating the rules around environmental claims in advertising content can be tricky. If you have any doubts about the claims you’re making, get in touch with the experts at Ad Standards via our Copy Advice Service. We can provide you with fast and confidential guidance about potential issues in your content and the best way to go about fixing them. We accept requests for all new concepts, imagery, copy and campaigns prior to publication, broadcast or public release.

 

And finally, before making any environmental claims about your products, you should also read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's publication Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law to help you comply with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.