Voluntary green code for ads weak

Will consumers really be protected from misleading ‘green’ claims when self-regulation by the advertising industry begins?
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  • Updated:3 Jul 2009

01.Voluntary green code for ads weak

As protecting and sustaining our environment becomes increasingly important, consumers are bombarded by green claims for products and services ranging from beer to flights. But not all of them can be backed up, giving rise to “greenwash”, where consumers are taken for a ride.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has proposed the development of a self-regulatory green marketing code that attempts to curb misleading green claims, however CHOICE is concerned it won’t go far enough.

Under the code, advertisers will not be able to imply they have voluntarily adopted a practice already required by law, and they must substantiate all environmental claims, which must represent benefit or significant improvement to the overall environmental impact of the product.

However, as we’ve regularly reported, recent cases demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of self-regulation by the advertising industry. For instance, the code on food marketing to children has failed to protect kids from the unhealthy influence of junk food advertisements.

A CHOICE-commissioned Newspoll survey found 88% of Australian parents believe marketing of food specifically to children contributes to parents’ difficulties in ensuring children develop better eating habits, and 82% were in favour of increasing government regulation of the way unhealthy foods are advertised and marketed to children.

Although the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has issued its Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act guide, regulation of environmental claims remains insufficient as it is limited to false or misleading claims, and does not address other forms of environmental marketing messages such as being vague or making claims that do not provide the full picture.

CHOICE believes investigation of environmental claims requires expertise, something the industry’s self-regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Bureau, does not have. We also want the Australian standard on environmental claims updated and made mandatory.

Voluntary compliance with the AANA’s new green code begins next year. For more information or to tell us about dodgy green claims you’ve come across, visit our Green Watch campaign.


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