ASCI publishes draft guidelines for environmental claims to prevent greenwashing

Sheena Khan

December 19, 2023

ASCI publishes draft guidelines for environmental claims to prevent greenwashing

The Advertising Standards Council of India (“ASCI”) recently issued comprehensive draft guidelines (“draft Guidelines”) in respect of advertisements which incorporate environmental claims. The draft Guidelines prescribe that environmental claims are required to be presented in a transparent, accurate and evidence-based manner in order to curb greenwashing. The Guidelines aim to offer the advertisers a framework to substantiate their environmental claims which will enable consumers to make informed decisions while purchasing their services, products, brands, etc.

For the ease of understanding, greenwashing refers to a deceptive practice wherein the advertisers make false environmental claims about their services, products, processes, etc. in order to deceive the consumers to mislead them into thinking that they are harmless or even beneficial to the environment. Further, it is to be noted that greenwashing is violative of Chapter 1 of the ASCI Code which provides for truthful and honest representation. It states that, “… Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims and comparisons, which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact, should be capable of substantiation…..Advertisements shall neither distort facts nor mislead the consumer by means of implications or omissions. Advertisements shall not contain statements or visual presentation, which directly, or by implication or by omission or by ambiguity or by exaggeration, are likely to mislead the consumer about the product advertised or the advertiser, or about any other product or advertiser.

The guidelines introduced by the ASCI, as regards the prevention of greenwashing and environmental claims, are listed below:

  • Absolute claims such as but not limited to ‘environment friendly’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘sustainable’, ‘planet friendly’ that imply that the product advertised has no impact or only a positive impact must be supported by a high level of substantiation. Comparative claims such as ‘greener’ or ‘friendlier’ can be justified, for example, if the advertised product or service provides a total environmental benefit over that of the advertiser’s previous product or service or competitor products or services and the basis of such comparison is made clear.
  • Environmental claims must be based on the full life cycle of the advertised product or service, unless the advertisement states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product or service might be justifiable. Claims that are based on only part of an advertised product or service's life cycle must not mislead consumers about the product or service’s total environmental impact.
  • Unless it is clear from the context, an environmental claim should specify whether it refers to the product, the product’s packaging, a service, or just to a portion of the product, package, or service.
  • Advertisements must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit that a product or service offers by highlighting the absence of an environmentally damaging ingredient if that ingredient is not usually found in competing products or services by highlighting an environmental benefit that results from a legal obligation if competing products are subject to the same requirements.
  • Certifications and Seals of Approval should make clear which attributes of the product or service have been evaluated by the certifier, and the basis of such certification provided. Certifications and Seals used in an advertisement should be from a Nationally/Internationally recognised certifying authority.
  • Visual elements in an ad should not give a false impression about the product/service being advertised. For example, logos representing a recycling process on packaging and/or in advertising material can significantly influence a consumer’s impression of the environmental impact of a product or service.
  • Advertisers should refrain from making aspirational claims about future environmental objectives unless they have developed clear and actionable plans detailing how those objectives will be achieved.
  • For carbon offset claims advertisers should clearly and prominently disclose if the carbon offset represents emission reductions that will not occur for two years or longer. Ads should not claim directly or by implication that a carbon offset represents an emission reduction if the reduction, or the activity that caused the reduction, was required by law.
  • For claims pertaining to the product being compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, non-toxic, free-of etc. advertisers should qualify the aspects to which such claims are being attributed, and the extent of the same. All such claims should have competent and reliable scientific evidence to show that:
  • The product or the qualified component where applicable will break down within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.
  • The product is free of elements that can lead to environmental hazards.

News

GET IN TOUCH WITH US TODAY

Contact Us Now

Awards & Recognitions


Cookies Consent

We use cookies to help you navigate efficiently and perform certain functions. You will find detailed information about all cookies under each consent category below. Read more...

Cookies Consent

We use cookies to help you navigate efficiently and perform certain functions. You will find detailed information about all cookies under each consent category below. Read more...