Global Green Marketing Issues

Masters of Advertising Law Conference attendees: Scroll down for CLE materials

Members of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance explored the current regulations and enforcement "climate" around the world relating to the marketing of the environmental benefits of various products and services.

Key Takeaways

Claims about sustainability and how environmentally friendly a particular product or service is can often come under fire. Many brands are guilty of making unsubstantiated claims or producing misleading ads. Members of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance shared multiple examples of such unsubstantiated and/or misleading ESG advertisements.

Alpro

German plant-based food company, Alrpo, created an ad explaining to customers that its products were "Your recipe to a healthier planet," and "Good for the planet, good for you!" A complaint by environmentalists claimed the ad misled consumers into thinking its products had less of an environmental impact than dairy products and questioned whether it could be substantiated. The Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), the U.K.'s advertising regulator, said the ad was ambiguous and implied its products were a net benefit for the environment. The agency also declared that Alpro was unable to provide lifecycle analysis to support its claims.

Tier

Berlin-based e-scooter rental startup made claims that its product was "environmentally and pedestrian friendly." The claim was challenged by the ASA for being an absolute claim relative to other modes of transportation. Furthermore, the claim that it was environmentally friendly conflicts with the fact that its products are manufactured and shipped from China and are constructed using aluminum, which requires an energy intensive process.

RBC

RBC, a Canadian global financial institution, came under fire for highlighting its commitment to sustainability across corporate documents and high-level bank updates. The issue was that while the company pledged to invest $500 billion in sustainable financing and claimed to support the Paris Agreement, the brand was also investing billions of dollars in fossil fuels. This resulted in the Competition Bureau, Canada's competition regulator, launching an investigation into the brands sustainability claims.

Ecover Ocean Bottle

In 2014, German company Ecover Ocean Bottles launched its "Washing up Liquid" bottle and claimed the product contained 10 percent plastic waste collected by fishermen in the North Sea. In 2017, it increased the amount of plastic waste used to 50 percent. However, a competitor discovered that the brand didn't collect the claimed percentages exclusively from oceans, also using plastic from beaches, canals, and rivers. The competitor successfully sued, as the court determined that Ecover's ad didn't accurately reflect the percentages of used ocean plastic.

Lipton Tea

Lipton claimed in an ad that its iced tea bottles were 100 percent recyclable. However, a disclosure in the ad clarified that the claim excluded the cap and label. The ASA ruled against Lipton on the basis that the 100 percent claim was inaccurate and contradicted by the fine print.

HSBC & BP

The British multinational universal bank HSBC created an ad describing how it was investing $1 trillion in global investments to help clients attain net zero emissions. The ASA objected to the ad, as it implied that the brand's operations were a net positive for the environment, despite financing 65.3 million tons of carbon dioxide production through investments across the oil and gas industries. In contrast, multinational oil and gas company BP created an ad where it also highlighted sustainable investments in energy. However, the ad disclosed that while making efforts to transition to net zero emissions, BP was still mostly an oil and gas company.

CLE Materials

Source

"Global Green Marketing Issues." Brinsley Dresden, partner at Lewis Silkin LLP; Kelly Harris, principal at Harris + co.; Juan Carlos Uribe, partner and founder of Triana Uribe + Michelsen; Søren Pietzcker, partner at Heuking Kuhn Luer Wojtek. 2022 ANA Masters of Advertising Law Conference, 11/9/22.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.