Ad watchdog handed tools for greenwash crackdown

A new rule to stop marketers exaggerating the environmental benefits of their products will be introduced later this year as part of an overhaul of the advertising codes.

2008 Shell ad was banned by the ASA for Greenwashing
2008 Shell ad was banned by the ASA for Greenwashing

An explicit rule to prevent what has been called “greenwashing” will be included in the non-broadcast code while an environmental claims section will be included in the broadcast code.

The new rules on environmental claims are one of several changes to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) codes for broadcast and non-broadcast media and follow a lengthy consultation with industry bodies, Government and advertising agencies.

The review of the codes, which are used by the Advertising Standards Authority when it adjudicates on the complaints received about campaigns, led to 30,000 submissions. These came mainly from anti-abortion campaigners that objected to the possibility that current restrictions on the advertising of “post-conception advice services” could be lifted.

Andrew Brown, chairman of CAP and BCAP, says the inclusion of the new environmental claims rules will help companies avoid unnecessary bans and provide the ASA with a “better steer” when adjudicating.

Other new codes include:

– Allowing charities to launch TV and radio ads that compare one charity with another.
– The creation of a single broadcast code rather than the existing four codes.
– Removing the post-9pm scheduling restriction for condom advertising on TV allowing ads to air earlier in the evening.
– The application of the “strict” rules for alcohol products to be applied to low alcohol products of less than 1.2%ABV.
– A dedicated ’lottery advertising’ section to cover the National Lottery and lotteries licensed under the Gambling Act.
– New codes covering nutrition and health claims that reflect the provisions of the new European Nutrition and Health Claims regulation, which imposes rules on the types of claims that may be made about food products.
– New TV and radio scheduling restriction to prevent ads for age-restricted computer and console games from appearing around programmes watched by children.
– Rules to prevent marketers from collecting data from under-12s without obtaining the consent of their parent or guardian.

The new Codes will come into force on 1 September 2010.

BCAP has delayed its ruling on changes to the code on post-conception advice and is liaising with Ofcom ahead of a final decision.

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