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Greenwashing – ASA reprimands three big brands for overstating their environmental claims

During the first quarter of 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints against two well known food and drink brands that challenged whether the advertisements exaggerated the total environmental benefit of the products being advertised and were therefore misleading.

The ASA, along with other regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), continue to crack down on businesses that are seen to be “greenwashing” – the practice of making exaggerated claims about a business’ environmental credentials and the sustainability of its products, services and environmental impact.

In February, we reported on the ASA’s finding that adverts produced by the drinks brand Innocent were misleading.  The adverts in question implied that purchasing Innocent products was a choice which would have a positive environmental impact. While the ASA acknowledged that Innocent was undertaking various actions aimed at reducing the environmental impact of its products, that was not enough to demonstrate that its products had a net positive environmental impact over their full lifecycles. The ASA also noted that Innocent’s drinks bottles included non-recycled plastic and that the extraction of raw materials and subsequent processing of those materials in order to produce the bottle would have a negative impact on the environment. You can read our original article here which also contains a wider discussion of the ESG agenda of which greenwashing is just a small part.

The second brand that has been reprimanded is Lipton’s Tea which is part of Pepsi Lipton International. Lipton has been censured by the ASA for making a misleading sustainability claim about the packaging of its plastic bottles. The ASA upheld a complaint about a poster for the iced tea brand which stated “Deliciously refreshing, 100% recycled” with small text at the bottom of the poster stating that this excluded the cap and label. The complainant suggested that “100% recycled” misleadingly implied the entire bottle was made from 100% recycled plastic. The ASA upheld the complaint. The ASA agreed that the overall impression of the advert was that all components of the bottle were made entirely from recycled plastic and as such ruled that the advert must not appear again.

WM Comment

Walker Morris’ Regulatory and Commercial Dispute Resolution teams can help businesses with the drafting or updating of appropriate policies and procedures to guard against greenwashing and with the provision of staff training on misrepresentation and/or specific greenwashing issues. Please give us a call if you need any advice.