The object of this code is to ensure that advertisers and marketers develop and maintain rigorous standards when making environmental claims in advertising and to increase consumer confidence to the benefit of the environment, consumers and industry.
Providing clear, straightforward, environmental information has benefits for consumers and business alike. Information about the environmental impacts and qualities of products and services and environmental claims (sometimes called ‘green’ claims) can help consumers make informed buying choices.
All advertising shall adhere to the laws of New Zealand and the Principles and Guidelines set out in this Code. The Code of Ethics and the Code for Comparative Advertising should also be consulted, where relevant.
Advertisers should also be aware of relevant environmental claims guidelines published by the Commerce Commission.
This Code covers all words and visual depictions in all advertising containing environmental claims and includes packaging shown in advertisements.
In interpreting the code emphasis will be placed on compliance with both the principles and the spirit and intention of the code. The guidelines are merely examples, by no means exhaustive, of how the principles are to be interpreted and applied. It is also possible for an advertisement to be in breach of the principle without being in breach of a specific guideline. Upon complaint, the ASCB is vested with discretion to ensure a common-sense outcome. It is important to note that in considering a complaint both the likely audience and media placement, that is when and where the advertisement is broadcast, printed, or displayed, are key factors in determining code compliance.
“Environment” includes ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities; natural and physical resources; and the qualities and characteristics or locations, places and areas.
“Environmental claim” means any statement, symbol or graphic that indicates an environmental aspect of a service, product, component or packaging and includes references to sustainability, recycling, carbon neutrality, energy efficiency, use of natural products or impact on animals and the natural environment.
“Environmental impact” means any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organisation’s activities or products.
“Life cycle” means consecutive and interlinked stages of a product from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to final disposal or use, and recycling.
Principle 1 – Advertisements making an environmental claim should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.
- Absolute environmental claims shall be assessed on the complete life-cycle of the product and its packaging, taking into account any effects on the environment of its manufacture, distribution, use, disposal, etc. Examples include: environmentally friendly / safe / kind.
- Qualified claims such as “environmentally friendlier/safer/kinder” require an ability to prove a meaningful environmental advantage over competitors or a meaningful improvement on a previous formulation, components, packaging, method of manufacture or operation.
- Environmental claims shall be relevant, specific and clearly explain the significance of the claim in language readily understood by consumers.
- Environmental claims shall only be made where there is a genuine benefit, not where they are simply promoting the observance of existing law.
- Environmental claims shall not overstate the level of scientific acceptance.
Principle 2 – Advertisements making environmental claims should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive or is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading)
- Environmental claims shall be accurate and able to be substantiated by evidence that is current and reflects legislative, scientific and technological developments.
- Environmental claims shall be consistent with information on the label or packaging.
- Advertisements shall not claim or imply endorsement by any government agency, professional body or independent agency unless there is prior consent and the claim and endorsement are current and verifiable.
- Environmental signs and symbols shall not be used in such a way as to falsely suggest official approval or third party endorsement.
- Environmental claims shall meet relevant local or international standards as appropriate if a particular benefit is claimed (eg “biodegradable”, “organic” etc), and explain clearly the nature of the benefit.
- Environmental claims based on the absence of a harmful chemical or damaging effect are not acceptable if no other products in the category include the chemical or cause the effect.
- Scientific terminology, technical language and statistics are acceptable provided they are relevant and used in a way readily understood by consumers without specialist knowledge. Publication of research results must identify the researcher and source references.
- Statements about aspirations of future environmental performance shall be clear and able to be substantiated.