14 Apr. 2022. The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has published a series of recommendations for brands, marketers and advertisers to ensure their environmental claims are credible for consumers and regulators. The global organisation, which represents marketers responsible for 90% of global marketing communications spend around the world, aims to solve the issue of greenwashing – the use of misleading environmental claims in marketing and advertising.
The WFA has identified six core principles that brands need to follow:
(a) Claims must not be likely to mislead, and the basis for them must be clear.
(b) Marketers must hold robust evidence for all claims likely to be regarded as objective and capable of substantiation.
(c) Marketing communications must not omit material information. Where time or space is limited, marketers must use alternative means to make qualifying information readily accessible to the audience and indicate where it can be accessed.
(d) Marketers must base general environmental claims on the full lifecycle of their product or business, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the lifecycle.
(e) Products compared in marketing communications must meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose. The basis for comparisons must be clear and allow the audience to make an informed decision about the products compared.
(f) Marketers must include all information relating to the environmental impact of advertised products that is required by law, regulators or Codes to which they are signatories.
A Pledge for the Planet
The six core principles are part of the WFA’s Planet Pledge initiative, which aims to encourage brands to commit to a zero-carbon economy and use their own marketing to drive more sustainable behaviour. There are currently 27 signatories to the pledge, including brands such as PepsiCo, Arla, IKEA, Bayer, Unilever, Danone, Tesco, Diageo and Mastercard, who collectively represent over $50 billion in marketing spend.
“Current consumer scepticism in environmental claims and marketers’ fear of greenwashing are together the biggest obstacles to our industry being part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA. “Big reductions in CO2 emissions have occurred on the back of technology and innovation; the next big advance needs to be driven by behavioural change. This is where marketers can help. This guidance is an essential first step to creating an environment where marketers and consumers can feel more confident about companies’ sustainability credentials.”
A Growing Movement
The WFA guidance joins the recently published ‘Green Claims Code’ from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which helps businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading consumers, and the Anti-Greenwashing Campaign by Two Sides.
The Anti-Greenwashing Campaign has been challenging companies and organisations about their misleading environmental claims for over 11 years, and so far has resulted in 170 UK and 448 European service providers removing their greenwash statements.
With the work that Two Sides, the WFA, the CMA and many others are doing to combat greenwash, it’s clear that brands must do more to back up their sustainability claims. And if the guidelines don’t convince them then their customers will. A recent study by Belgian ad agency Bubka found that only 6.4% of people believe companies are telling the truth when they talk about their contribution to the climate crisis.
For more information about the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, go to www.twosides.info/anti-greenwash
Download the WFA Global Guidance on Environmental Claims 2022 at www.wfanet.org/leadership/planet-pledge