Insights Advertising Standards Authority publishes statement on regulation of environmental claims and issues in advertising


The ASA has carried out a review of its regulation of environmental claims and issues in advertising to ensure that they are still fit for purpose. The review looked at advertising regulation on environmental issues across the world and analysed the legislative and policy landscape.

The review found that the types of misleadingness issues encountered, and the ASA’s decision making, is in line with other advertising regulatory bodies across Europe and further afield. The review also showed that the issues encountered when making claims that touch on the environment can be complex and there is significant scope for businesses to make mistakes, and to mislead.

The review also found that social responsibility issues (for example, ads that encourage unsustainable behaviours or behaviours likely to harm the environment) have not been a key concern for those who complain to the ASA or otherwise encountered much by the regulator. However, in the ASA’s view, this is an area that will require greater regulatory scrutiny in future.

The review of other ad regulators’ rules and current and planned legislation found that there are sufficient and comprehensive rules already in place in the UK to tackle misleading and socially irresponsible ads about the environment. However, given the breadth of the legislative and policy landscape in this area, the ASA considers that businesses are going to need to take more account of changes that are likely to occur to meet Government targets. Expectations are rising for businesses to play a more prominent role in encouraging responsible consumer consumption behaviours, and businesses are increasingly wanting to burnish their eco-credentials, but the issues in this area can be complex and hard to navigate.

Accordingly, the ASA has concluded that a blend of issue-based enquiries, research and (subject to the evidence base) new guidance to help businesses get their advertising right are called for at this time. New guidance will be published later in 2021 and the ASA will also start a series of enquiries into specific issues. The ASA will also commission research this Autumn into consumer understanding of “Carbon Neutral” and “Net Zero” claims.

Essentially, the ASA is sending a clear signal that it will be shining a brighter regulatory spotlight on advertising issues that relate to climate change and the environment in the coming months and years. To read the ASA’s statement in full, click here.