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The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced that it will issue new guidance to advertisers this year to make certain their ads don’t mislead consumers about their impact on the environment.

The CAP’s sister body, the Advertising Standards Association (ASA), has said it will ”be shining a brighter regulatory spotlight on environmental matters in the years to come and tightening up our positions on problematic ad claims where there is an evidence base to do so”.

What’s changing?

  • The ASA has been reviewing its regulation on environmental communications in the wake of the IPCC’s most recent report, which concluded without doubt that human activities were behind climate change. 

  • As well as issuing updated guidance later this year, the ASA is investigating specific areas of advertising, beginning with the energy, heating and transport sectors, in partnership with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Later focuses include commercial and household waste, and food sustainability. 

  • The ASA says it plans on issuing new sector-specific guidance for businesses following these investigations.

  • It’s also commissioning new research into consumer understanding of net zero and carbon neutral claims made by advertisers, as well as perceptions of hybrid claims in the electric vehicle business; new guidance for these sectors is expected in 2022.

Why are rules on environmental comms under review?

  • The ASA has been reviewing its existing guidance for the last five months to see if it is still fit for purpose. 

  • ”Our review found that the types of misleadingness issues encountered and our decision making is in line with other advertising regulatory bodies across Europe and further afield ... there is significant scope for businesses to make mistakes, and to mislead, when making environmental claims, which can lead to consumer detriment and harm to the planet,” the ASA said in a statement.

  • Accordingly, the ASA is seeking to bring its guidance into closer alignment with international bodies, not only to crack down on advertisers breaking the rules but to guide businesses toward communicating responsibly.

  • The statement concluded: ”Advertising has an important part to play in encouraging responsible behaviors and to help consumers make the right choices. And as ever, it’s a fine balance, given that we regulate ads, not the underlying products or services themselves, and our role does not involve banning whole categories of such advertising.

  • ”Our announcement sends a clear signal that the ASA will be shining a brighter regulatory spotlight on advertising issues that relate to climate change and the environment in the coming months and years.”