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The ASA bans Innocent drinks ad for "greenwashing"

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United Kingdom

The Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") has upheld complaints from twenty-six complainants (including Plastics Rebellion) who challenged whether the claims in a TV, YouTube and Video-on-demand advert promoting Innocent drinks as a product that could help to "fix up the planet" exaggerated the total environmental benefit of the product and were therefore misleading. 

The accusation of "greenwashing" is being increasingly used against brands that are seen to be conveying a false impression of their green credentials and misleading consumers into thinking they are helping the planet by choosing their products, when they are not. The rise in public concern in this area has led to the ASA increasingly scrutinising environmental claims and taking action against ads in this space.  

We have previously reported on the ASA's ruling against a Quorn ad over a carbon footprint claim and the investigation of the Competition and Markets Authority of the use of "eco-friendly" claims and their impact on consumer purchasing decisions.

This latest ruling shows that despite recognising that an ad contains aspirational environmental messaging (including imagery of people recycling, choosing natural foods and choosing to “reduce, reuse recycle”), the ASA will nevertheless uphold complaints against ads that lack clarity for the basis of environmental claims and that are not supported by a high level of substantiation.

In the ruling, the ASA assessed the overall presentation of the ad, including imagery and lyrics, and concluded that the ad was misleading because it could lead some consumers to believe that "purchasing Innocent products was a choice which would have a positive environmental impact when that was not the case".

The ASA acknowledged that Innocent were undertaking actions which were aimed at reducing the environmental impact of their products. Nevertheless, such actions fell short of demonstrating that Innocent products had a net positive environmental impact over their full lifecycles.

The ruling shows that even where brands are investing in environmental improvements, they should take care when making any environmental claims without having clear evidence to substantiate such claims.

Co-authored by Victoria Dubenkova.

If you require any further information in relation to this area please don’t hesitate to contact Rachel Bowley.

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