UK ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced the release of new guidance for advertisers making environmental sustainability claims to consumers, including the use of terms “carbon neutral” and “net zero.”
The regulator also said that is aware that there are currently organizations making “entirely unqualified” carbon neutral and net zero claims, adding:
“Unqualified claims are likely to breach existing rules, and the ASA will be taking proactive action immediately to address such claims.”
The new guidance, released by ASA’s advertising and broadcast advertising practice committees (CAP and BCP), follows a project conducted by ASA which identified the use of carbon neutral and net zero claims as a priority area, given their growing prevalence and the potential for consumers to be misled by these claims. An ASA research study found that the claims’ meaning had little consensus, with consumers feeling misled, for example, when discovering the role of emissions offsetting in achieving carbon neutrality, as opposed to absolute emissions reductions.
To help address these issues, the ASA’s new guidance includes recommendations to avoid using unqualified carbon neutral, net zero or similar claims in advertising, and to ensure that information explaining the basis of the claims is included, for marketers to include accurate information about the degree to which they are actively reducing carbon emissions or are basing claims on offsetting, and that claims based on future goals are based on verifiable strategies to achieve them. Additionally, claims based on offsetting should include information about the offsetting schemes used.
The ASA said that it will monitor the impact of the new guidance for six months, and gather information to assess how the claims are being substantiated, and will potentially launch a review to provide future guidance on what forms of evidence are likely to be acceptable to substantiate such claims in advertising.