New Code to tackle “greenwashing”

Posted by Editorial on 3rd April 2009

Food and beverage marketers will need to be more careful with their ‘green’ product claims after the board of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) announced they would proceed with the development and implementation of an Environmental Claims Advertising and Marketing Code to address the increasing concerns about ‘greenwashing’.

Food and beverage companies have been increasingly keen to promote their products as environmentally-friendly in the past few years, but consumer group Choice last year argued that many of the claims failed to be supported with facts.

With consumers becoming more aware of, and interested in, the environmental impact of products and services, the new Code will help ensure that advertisers and marketers develop and maintain rigorous standards when making environmental claims in advertising and marketing communications.

The AANA said they consulted widely with their members, community groups and environmental advocates last year on the need for a new Code, with most in support of a more comprehensive industry-wide Code.

Elements the new Code will address include: the need for advertisers to substantiate any environmental claims they make about products or services; that any claims must represent a significant benefit or improvement in the overall environmental impact of the product or service concerned; and that any environmental claims do not lead the consumer to conclude a company has voluntarily adopted an environmental practice when in fact it has been legally mandated.

“Despite a recent shift in media focus away from environmental issues, AANA members remain committed to the fight against ‘greenwashing’,” Scott McClellan, Chief Executive of the AANA, reported. “This Code of Practice will provide the necessary guidance to advertisers and marketers to ensure that the claims they are making are accurate and honest, and will serve to increase consumer confidence in environmental claims made in advertising and marketing to the benefit of the environment, consumers and industry.”

It is anticipated that the Code will be published in the middle of the year and fully operational from early 2010. The Code will form part of the AANA’s existing self-regulatory system and will be adjudicated by the Advertising Standards Board.