Greenwash advertising complaints soar

Record numbers of complaints about environmental claims were made to the Advertising Standards Authority last year.

The ASA's Annual Report 2007 revealed objections about green claims more than doubled with 561 complaints about 410 adverts, compared to just 117 complaints about 83 adverts in 2006.

The organisation said the results suggested greater public scrutiny of advertisers' environmental credentials.

However, separate research carried out by the ASA last year showed that there was still confusion about carbon emission claims and commonly used terms such as "sustainable".

Statements that products and services were carbon "neutral", "zero" or "negative" were particularly open to challenge, along with other absolute claims such as "100% recycled".

A record number of adverts were changed or withdrawn last year following ASA rulings.

One was a controversial Shell advert depicting industrial chimneys emitting flowers, implying the company used the majority of their waste CO2 to grow flowers when it was a tiny percentage of its global emissions.

Friends of the Earth complained to the ASA and regulators in the Netherlands and Belgium about the advert.

Commenting on the ASA's report, Friends of the Earth's political director Mike Childs told edie: "Industry must respond to the huge environmental threats that the planet faces.

"But this must be through a genuine commitment to protecting the planet, and not by trying to fool the public with advertising greenwash."

Overall, the number of adverts complained about reached an all-time high of 14,080 - an increase of 9.6% on the previous year and the total number of complaints increased by 7.9% to 24,192.

Nearly half of all complaints were received were about adverts that were believed to be misleading.

ASA chairman Lord Chris Smith said: "These complaints are almost entirely about truth, accuracy, misleadingness and availability - the 'meat and drink' of the ASA's daily work."

Kate Martin



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