“Green” claims to face greater scrutiny

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th September 2009

In response to the increasing number of ‘green’ claims being made by advertisers, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has published an Environmental Claims in Advertising and Marketing Code. The Code has been adopted by AANA to ensure that marketers apply rigorous, industry-wide standards when they make environmental claims in advertising or marketing communications.

The use of the term ‘green’ has come to prominence over the past couple of years as companies endeavour to position themselves as an environmentally-friendly alternative. However, the push has seen a number of companies stretch their credentials a little too far in their advertising leading to the creation of the term ‘greenwashing’. Such incorrect claims have led to an increased number of consumers becoming skeptical about the ‘green’ claims made by companies, according to market research.

The AANA Code establishes a set of principles in relation to any environmental claims made about a product or service: that claims are truthful and factual; that they are relevant to the product or service and its actual environmental impacts; and that they can be substantiated and verified.

The Code specifically requires that claims not be misleading, vague or ambiguous and that they reflect relevant legislative, scientific and technological developments. It also requires that environmental claims demonstrate a genuine benefit to the environment and that they are backed up by current evidence. Such substantiation must be readily accessible or available to the consumer upon request.

“AANA members recognise there are significant benefits both for consumers and advertisers in providing accurate, specific and straightforward information about the environmental impacts and qualities of products and services,” said Scott McClellan, Chief Executive Officer of AANA. “This Code of Practice establishes a clear framework for advertisers and marketers on the use of ‘green’ claims and sets the benchmark against which these claims will be judged.”

“It gives consumers a simple, transparent mechanism to assess the environmental merits of a product or service, and provides the means for them to easily make a complaint in the event that they believe they’ve been misled by an environmental claim.”

Complaints under the Code will be considered by the Board from 1 January 2010.

The ACCC has also released guidelines to assist marketers and ensure their advertising does not contradict the Trade Practices Act.