New guidance on how companies can promote their environmental credentials without making misleading claims and falling foul of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have been published by Defra.

The guidance recommends that companies use clear language when making environmental claims. They are encouraged to follow three key steps to build consumer confidence in the environmental attributes of their products:

  • ensure the content of the claim is relevant and refl ects a genuine benefit to the environment;
  • present the claim clearly and accurately; and
  • ensure the claim can be substantiated.

The environment department claims the revised guidance will make it easier for businesses to substantiate green claims, as well as help restore public faith in environmental advertising and act as a resource for companies to help develop more sustainable products.

The guide was last amended in 2003. The decision to revise it further came after in increase in the number of complaints to the ASA about environmental claims in adverts.

ASA reported in 2008 that it received 561 complaints about 410 adverts in 2007, and that it had received 218 complaints about 160 adverts by the middle of 2008.

By contrast, there were only 117 complaints in 2006.

The authority says that a key requirement of advertising codes – the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) codes – is that advertisers should be able to substantiate the claims they make with sound evidence.

The new Defra guide aligns with the CAP and BCAP codes as well as ISO 14021, the international standard on self-declared environmental claims, the EU unfair commercial practices Directive (2005/29/EC), and the European Commission’s guidance on making and assessing environmental claims.