The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) takes a significant step toward increasing transparency and accountability in environmental advertising by releasing detailed draft rules on “Environmental/Green Claims.”
The proposed guidelines are out for public comment until December 31, 2023, after which they will be finalized. These recommendations, developed by a multi-stakeholder task committee that included environmental specialists, aim to ensure that advertisements do not engage in greenwashing techniques. The draft rules provide advertisers with a clear framework for making genuine and evidence-based environmental claims.
Environmental claims include assertions that a product or service has a neutral or positive environmental impact, is less harmful to the environment than a previous version of the same product or service or a competitive product, or has specific environmental benefits.
Claims about the environment or going green might be explicit or tacit. They may appear in commercials, marketing materials, branding (including business and trading names), packaging, or other consumer information.
Absolute claims, such as “environmentally friendly,” “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” and “planet friendly,” that imply that the marketed product has no or only a positive impact, must be supported by a high level of evidence. Comparative statements such as “greener” or “friendlier” can be permissible, for example, if the marketed product or service provides a complete environmental advantage over the advertiser’s previous product or service or competitor products or services, and the basis for such comparison is clearly stated.
Unless otherwise stated in the marketing, environmental claims must be based on the entire life cycle of the offered product or service and must clearly identify the boundaries of the life cycle. If a broad claim cannot be supported, a more narrow claim concerning certain aspects of a product or service may be. Claims based on only a portion of a product’s or service’s life cycle must not mislead consumers about the complete environmental impact of the product or service.
An environmental claim should indicate whether it pertains to the product, the product’s packaging, a service, or simply a component of the product, package, or service, unless it is evident from the context.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit that a product or service provides by emphasizing the absence of an environmentally damaging ingredient if that ingredient is not commonly found in competing products or services, or emphasizing an environmental benefit resulting from a legal obligation if competing products are subject to the same requirements.
Advertisers should avoid making aspirational promises regarding future environmental goals unless they have produced clear and practical strategies outlining how those goals will be met.
Advertisers should clearly and conspicuously declare if the carbon offset represents emission reductions that will not occur for at least two years. Ads should not state explicitly or imply that a carbon offset reflects an emission reduction if the reduction, or the activity that created the reduction, was mandated by law.
“ASCI’s draft guidelines on Environmental/Green Claims are a critical step to ensure that consumers who want to support green brands have the correct information to make an informed decision,” stated Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General of ASCI. These rules provide a standard for advertisers and seek to develop a culture of transparency and authenticity in advertising that is in the best interests of consumers. We welcome all stakeholders to submit input on the draft guidelines, including consumers, industry, civil society members, and experts, so that we can sharpen and enhance them.” The public feedback period will end on December 31, 2023.