ASCI introduces guidelines to ensure honest environmental claims in advertising

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The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued guidelines to prevent false environmental claims, also known as greenwashing, found in various sectors. These Guidelines for Advertising Making Environmental/Green Claims have been placed in the public domain for consultation from 16 November 2023 and were approved at a recent Board meeting.

These guidelines, which go into effect on February 15, 2024, aim to ensure that environmental claims made by advertisers are reliable, verifiable, and transparent. Consumers are increasingly seeking products and services that minimize harm to the environment or have a positive impact on the environment. As a result of the proliferation of products, services, and businesses that claim to meet that demand, it is essential that such claims are reliable and verifiable.

Greenwashing refers to unsubstantiated, false, deceptive, or misleading environmental claims about a product, service, process, brand, or entire operation. We often see products making such broad claims when only a very small component or part of the product is green. ASCI guidelines require that advertising be specific and limit claims to those parts of the product or service that have actual environmental benefits. Advertising must not claim environmental benefits arising from legal obligations if competing products are subject to the same requirements. The guidelines also require that all seals and certificates must come from accredited organizations. A promise to be greener in the future cannot be realized without a concrete plan to achieve that claim.

Greenwashing violates Chapter 1 of the ASCI Code on Misleading Advertising. To avoid violating Chapter 1 of the ASCI Code, advertisements must follow these guidelines:

Guidelines:

1. The product being advertised as “eco-friendly,” “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” or “earth-friendly” as a whole has no impact, only a positive impact, or a negative impact. Absolute claims that imply mitigation must not be limited to these. It can be supported by robust data and/or well-known and trusted certifications. Such absolute claims cannot be diluted by disclaimers or other clear mechanisms such as QR codes or website links.

2. Comparative claims such as “greener” or “friendlier” include claims that the advertised product or service has environmental advantages over the advertiser’s previous product or service or over the product or service of a competitor. evidence that the basis for such comparisons is clear.

3. General environmental claims must be based on the entire life cycle of the advertised product or service and must identify life cycle limitations, unless otherwise stated in the advertisement. Even if general environmental claims are not justified, more specific claims about specific aspects of a product or service may be. Claims based only on part of the life cycle of the advertised product or service must not mislead consumers about the overall environmental impact of the product or service.

4. Unless it is clear from the context, environmental claims must specify whether they refer to the product, product packaging, service, or only part of the product, packaging, or service.

5. Advertisements may mislead consumers about the environmental benefits offered by competing products or services by claiming that they are free of environmentally harmful ingredients not normally found in competing products or services. must not be Similarly, advertising must not claim environmental benefits arising from legal obligations if competing products are subject to the same requirements.

If such a “free” claim is necessary to provide relevant information to consumers, an appropriate disclaimer indicating the purpose must be added. Example: “XX-Free: Prohibits the use of (name of regulation) (name of prohibited substance/ingredient)” ) in (product category). Claiming that a product is “free” of a substance if it does not contain a substance but contains another substance that is known to pose a similar or higher environmental risk is deceptive.

6. If the use of a certification or seal of approval gives consumers the impression of an environmental claim, advertisers must make clear what attributes of the product or service have been assessed by the certifier. Advertisers must ensure that their certification body is nationally/internationally accredited by a certification body such as a body accredited by the United Nations Board/Commission, BIS, etc.

7. Advertisers may not, unless required by law, ensure that their advertising results in the false impression that their products, taken as a whole, are not harmful or beneficial to the environment. visual elements must not be used in advertisements. For example, a logo representing a recycling process on packaging or advertising materials can have a significant impact on a consumer’s impression of the environmental impact of a product or service.

Visual elements for the above purposes include natural or environmental related elements used as part of a creative brand identity or trademark/trade name in a product/packaging/service, unless the element used is: It shall not contain color schemes or images of natural ingredients or elements. Directly related to environmental claims made for a product, package, or service to influence a consumer’s impression of the environmental impact of such product, package, or service. For example, green packaging where the product contains natural ingredients is not considered to contribute to a green claim unless it references an environmental claim.

8. Advertisers make ambitious claims about future environmental goals for their products/packaging/services unless they have developed a clear and actionable plan detailing how they will achieve those goals. You should refrain from doing so.

9. Advertisers must clearly and conspicuously disclose carbon offset claims that do not occur within the next two years. Advertising must not directly or implicitly claim that carbon offsets result in a reduction in emissions if the reduction or the activity causing the reduction is required by law.

10. For product claims such as compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, non-toxic, additive-free, etc., advertisers should limit the aspects and extent to which such claims are attributed. All such claims require competent and reliable scientific evidence that:

a) The Product or the applicable Authorized Component will fail within a reasonably short period of time after normal disposal.

b) The product does not contain any elements that may pose an environmental hazard.

Manisha kapoor
Manisha kapoor

Manisha Kapur, ASCI CEO and Executive Director Said, “Today’s consumers increasingly prefer environmentally friendly products and often pay a premium for them. To support environmentally friendly products, consumers need to make informed choices. We need to have the right information to do so. It is also important that organizations that genuinely offer greener products are able to clearly communicate this to consumers. We have expressed concern about the claims and believe these guidelines are an important step towards promoting transparency and accountability for environmental/green claims in advertising.”

Link to guidelines for environmental/green advertising

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