ASA Rulings – February 2022
This month, the ASA has begun its crackdown on unsubstantiated, misleading environmental claims with a number of rulings on the matter showing that the rules around making ‘Green Claims’ can no longer be ignored.
A poster for Lipton Ice Tea seen on a bus shelter in August last year featured the headline “DELICIOUSLY REFRESHING, 100% RECYCLED*” which linked to small text at the bottom of the poster that stated “Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label”. The ad included pack shots of two Lipton Ice Tea bottles with a recycling logo and the text “I’M 100% RECYCLED PLASTIC”.
One person challenged whether “100% RECYCLED*” misleadingly implied that all the bottle was made from 100% recycled plastic.
Pepsi Lipton said the headline claim “100% RECYCLED*” has a clear asterisk that indicates to consumers that there is a qualification that should be read in conjunction with it. They accepted that the size of the text in the qualification was small and could be overlooked, but in their opinion the wording of the qualification “Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label” was sufficient to clarify that the claim related to the bottle only and excluded the cap and label.
They said that the general understanding of consumers is that bottle caps and labels are not generally made of recycled materials. However, because some consumers might have assumed the headline claim related to the entire product shown in the ad, they considered it was appropriate to clarify the claim with the qualification.
UPHELD – The ASA felt that consumers would understand the claim “100% RECYCLED*” alongside images of the bottle with the label and cap to meant that all components, the bottle cap and label, were made entirely from recycled materials.
The ASA acknowledged that the ad stated “Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label”, but they felt that the wording appeared in very small text in the bottom corner of the ad and could be overlooked. The ASA further considered that even if a consumer saw the qualification, as the cap and label were not made from recycled materials, and the overall impression that Pepsi Lipton created was that all parts of the bottle were made entirely from recycled materials, the qualification was insufficient to counter that impression.
As the overall impression of the ad was that all components of the bottle were made entirely from recycled materials when that was not the case, the ASA concluded that the claim “100% RECYCLED*” was misleading.
CAP Code – 3.1 – misleading advertising, 3.7 – substantiation, 3.9 – qualification,11.3 – environmental claims.
Lessons to be learnt:
This ruling makes it clear that brands and advertisers who make environmental claims, should revisit them to make sure that the overall impression given by them is not misleading. As with this example companies claiming that their bottle is “100% recycled” alongside images of the full bottle will mean that the entire bottle is made from recycled materials, and that any qualifications will not be sufficient.
Five different adverts seen in January 2021 were investigated. They included Two TV ads from Oatly’s ‘Help Dad’ campaign, two paid-for social posts and two press ads.
109 separate complaints were received by the ASA about the following 5 claims:
1. ’Oatly generates 73% less CO2e v milk’,
2. ’The dairy and meat industries emit more CO2e than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc combined’,
3. ’Today, more than 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases are generated by the food industry, and meat and dairy account for more than half of that’,
4. ’Climate experts say cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact’
5. ’If everyone in the world adopted a vegan diet, it would reduce food’s annual greenhouse emissions by 6.6bn metric tons (a 49% reduction)’.
Oatly responded by listing its evidence and sources, including data from CarbonCloud, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and climate expert Joseph Poore.
- UPHELD – the ASA understood the claim to mean that all Oatly products generated 73% less CO2e compared to any type of cows’ milk. The ASA expected to see evidence relating to CO2e produced for all Oatly products and types of cows’ milk. As they had only seen evidence for the CO2e generated in the production of Oatly Barista Edition oat drink and whole cow’s milk. The ASA acknowledged that Oatly would amend the claim to say which products had been included in the analysis, the ASA conclude that as the evidence was not sufficient to support the claim as consumers would understand it, it was misleading.
- UPHELD – the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that worldwide, the transport industry had a lower environmental impact than the meat and dairy industry. The ASA considered that in the absence of qualification, consumers would understand that the comparison was based on an equivalent and full life cycle comparison of the emissions from those industries. The ASA considered that as the claim would be understood by consumers as based on equivalent and full life cycle analyses when that was not the case, the ad was misleading.
- UPHELD – the ASA understood that by taking the claim in the context of the whole ad, the ASA considered that consumers would understand that Oatly were describing greenhouse gases caused by human activities only. The ASA considered the evidence relating to the environmental impact of the food industry. The figure was taken from a comprehensive review that consolidated environmental data and the ASA considered that the evidence substantiated that part of the claim. As the claim would be understood by consumers as relating to meat and dairy only, when that was not the case, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading.
- UPHELD – the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim to be a definitive, objective claim that was based on scientific consensus. The evidence was from one climate expert who had said ‘A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth’. However the evidence only provided the opinion of one climate expert and the word ‘probably’ had been omitted from the claim, and therefore the ad overstated what the evidence supported. The ASA concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and so the ad was misleading.
- NOT UPHELD – the ASA considered that consumers would understand the term ‘vegan diet’ to mean a diet that excluded animal products. The ASA considered the evidence relating to the environmental impact of moving from current diets to vegan diets. As the claim had been substantiated the ASA concluded that the ad was not misleading.
3.1 – misleading advertising, 3.7 – substantiation, 11.1, 11.3, 11.4 – environmental claims.
Lessons to be learnt:
It is clear how important substantiation is, and we should ensure all our clients are aware of this and have the necessary evidence at all times when running promotions and adverts.