Advertising green code launched

New rules governing the way green claims can be advertised are designed to stop consumers being deceived, but will they actually work?
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  • Updated:3 Nov 2009

01.Advertising green code launched

A new voluntary code, launched by the Australian Association of National Advertisers, aims to regulate advertisers’ green claims. However, loopholes within the guidelines may undermine such efforts.

New rules in the Environmental Claims in Advertising and Marketing Code should prevent advertisers and marketers from taking consumers for a ride with bogus green claims or “greenwash”, by addressing common sins such as being too vague, outright lying, or making claims without evidence.

But CHOICE believes several escape clauses in the code give advertisers and their lawyers too much wiggle room on dodgy green claims. Success will largely depend on whether the rules are properly interpreted and enforced by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB). But the ASB is a self-regulated industry body that, according to CHOICE Senior Sustainability Officer Kate Norris, lacks the necessary expertise and clout to properly police green claims.

In fact, claims that are highly technical, such as some carbon claims, may not even be forwarded to the ASB for investigation, while claims deemed too trivial by the ASB will not even be considered. Notably, the code doesn’t cover labels or product packaging, which is where many poor green claims are found.

A 2008 CHOICE investigation discovered many examples of green claims on product labels were not supported by evidence, were poorly explained or completely irrelevant. The code emerged out of concern over the vast number of green claims related to products and services, ranging from beer to airline flights.

Organisations may mislead consumers by promoting themselves and their products with terms such as “ecofriendly”, “green”, “sustainable” or “environmentally friendly”, when in fact they have a minimal or even negative impact. CHOICE wants to see the Australian Standard for self-declared environmental claims updated and made mandatory.


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