Green adverts must consider full environmental impact

Green adverts must consider the full environmental impact of the products they describe following recent rulings by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In a ruling against the supermarket Tesco, ASA said it accepted that eating plant-based foods could generally be better for the environment. That was one of the claims made about Tesco’s Plant Chef burgers aired on TV, radio and Twitter.

Specific evidence

But ASA said it needed to see specific evidence about how the product demonstrated a lower environmental impact.

“However, we understood that Tesco did not hold any evidence in relation to the full lifecycle of any of the products in the Plant Chef range, or of the burger featured in the ads,” ASA said. “We were therefore unable to assess the product’s total environment impact over its life cycle compared with that of a meat burger.”

The supermarket must ensure the basis of any future environmental claims in advertising was clear, ASA said.

Clear guidance

ASA also heard a case against the supermarket Sainsburys. In the ad, the grocer claimed that mixing chickpeas with meat-based products could be healthier and more environmentally friendly.

But complainants said that chickpeas could be imported from overseas with adverse effects on the environment. This time, ASA ruled in favour of the supermarket.

One of the ads claimed that the way chickpeas grew was better for the planet than meat-based products. Crucially, Sainsburys cited a specific study and linked consumers to details on their website.

“The page outlined the Eatwell Guide which was the UK Government’s dietary recommendations and provided further links to reports and articles regarding the environmental benefits of the growth and soil nourishment of the lentils, chickpeas and beans featured in the ads,” ASA explained.

The cases are a reminder of how businesses must take care to justify environmental claims as they seek to improve their green credentials.

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