To ensure that advertisers’ green claims are true and evidence-based, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has proposed guidelines that aim to bring transparency and accountability in environmental claims-based advertising. These guidelines also aim to check greenwashing. The draft guidelines focus on various green claims, including positive impact on environment, carbon offset, and biodegradable claims.

The self-regulatory industry body has released draft guidelines for public consultation till December 31. The draft guidelines state that absolute claims such as ‘environment friendly’, ‘eco-friendly’ ‘sustainable’, and ‘planet friendly’ must be supported by a “high level of substantiation”. In addition, advertisers must also specify whether the environmental claim refers to the entire product, packaging or service.

In the case of carbon offset claims, the draft guidelines stated that advertisers must disclose if the reduction in emission will occur only in two years or over a longer time period. Ads also cannot make carbon offset-related claims that represent an emission reduction that is required by law.

It also stated that green claims must be based on the “full life cycle” of the advertised product or service. “Claims that are based on only part of an advertised product or service’s life cycle must not mislead consumers about the total environmental impact of the product or service,” the draft added.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI, said: “These draft guidelines on environmental/green claims are a crucial step to ensure that consumers who wish to support green brands have the correct information to make informed decisions. These guidelines set a standard for advertisers and aim to foster a culture of transparency and authenticity in advertising in the best interest of the consumers.”

misleading consumers

The draft guidelines also stressed that brands cannot mislead consumers about the environmental benefits by highlighting the absence of a damaging ingredient if it is not usually found in competing products.

“Certifications and Seals of Approval should make clear which attributes of the product or service have been evaluated by the certifier, and the basis of such certification provided. Certifications and seals used in an advertisement should be from a nationally or internationally recognised certifying authority,” the draft guidelines added.

Visual elements in an ad should not give a false impression about the product/service being advertised. Also, advertisers should refrain from making aspirational claims of their future environmental objectives, unless they have developed actionable plans, the ASCI’s draft guidelines added.

For claims pertaining to the product being compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, non-toxic, free-of, advertisers should qualify the aspects to which such claims are being attributed. They should be backed by “reliable scientific evidence” to indicate if the product will break down within a reasonably short period of time after disposal, and whether the product is free of elements that can lead to environmental hazards, the draft guidelines added.