In a move to promote transparency and accountability in environmental claims-based advertising, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has proposed a set of comprehensive guidelines to tackle greenwashing. These guidelines, open for public consultation until December 31, 2023, aim to ensure that advertisers’ green claims are true, evidence-based, and do not mislead consumers.
The proposed guidelines focus on various green claims, including those related to positive environmental impact, carbon offset, and biodegradability. For absolute claims such as “environment-friendly,” “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,” and “planet-friendly,” advertisers must provide strong supporting evidence and clearly specify whether the claim applies to the entire product, packaging, or service.
In the case of carbon offset claims, advertisers must disclose the timeframe for emission reduction, indicating whether it will occur within two years or over a longer period. Additionally, advertisements cannot make carbon offset-related claims that represent emission reductions mandated by law.
The guidelines emphasize that green claims must be based on the entire life cycle of the advertised product or service, preventing claims based on only a portion of the life cycle from misleading consumers about the overall environmental impact.
To further ensure consumer protection, the guidelines address the issue of misleading consumers by highlighting the lack of harmful ingredients if they are not commonly found in similar products. Additionally, certifications and seals of approval must clearly state the specific aspects of the product or service that have been assessed and the rationale behind the certification. Advertisers are prohibited from using certifications or seals that are irrelevant or misleading.
“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,” said Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General of ASCI. “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.”
The draft guidelines also highlight the importance of visual elements in advertising, emphasizing that they should not give a false impression about the product or service being advertised. Additionally, advertisers are advised to refrain from making aspirational claims of their future environmental objectives unless they have developed actionable plans.
With the implementation of these guidelines, ASCI seeks to promote responsible and transparent advertising practices that empower consumers to make informed decisions while also fostering a more environmentally conscious and sustainable marketplace.