Dodgy ‘green testimonials’ Spriker force Watchdog into action

Ads from the mining, automotive, petroleum, banking and pension industries had all been made aware of the ad standards.

AANA’s review comes after a precedent in October when the UK advertising regulator banned two ads by bank HSBC on the grounds that they “mislead” consumers about the company’s work on combating climate change. It was the first lawsuit by the UK Advertising Standards Authority against a bank for greenwashing.

In November, gas giant Shell was forced to remove ads promoting “carbon neutral” petrol after they were found misleading by the Dutch Advertising Code Committee.

Greenwashing, misleading or misrepresenting the extent to which something is environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical is on the radar of regulators around the world. Both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) say this is their top priority this year and have confirmed investigations into greenwashing are already underway.

There has only been one Environmental Claims Code complaint, upheld by Ad Standards, relating to an Australian Gas Networks digital billboard in 2020 saying: “Greener than anything you’re cooking tonight.” Love Cleaner Energy, Love Natural Gas,” accompanied by an image of a man in a kitchen holding a tray of lasagna.

The watchdog noted that the ad gave the average consumer the overall impression that natural gas was cleaner and more environmentally friendly than any alternative cooking method they could use, which was a misleading claim as there are other energy sources that are considered cleaner and more environmentally friendly would gas. In response, the company removed the billboard from its campaign.


Environmental claims can also be dealt with under the Advertising Association’s code of ethics, which allows companies to challenge a competitor’s advertising and have the matter judged by an industry panel.

Last year, Australia’s advertising regulator upheld a complaint by sustainable food packaging maker BioPak against its competitor, coffee cup wholesaler Pinnacle International Wholesalers, which claimed its single-use coffee cups were plastic-free, fully recyclable and compostable.

The panel considered that the advertising material gave a misleading or deceptive overall impression implying an unsubstantiated environmental benefit. Without any admission, the advertiser agreed to review the material. Dodgy ‘green testimonials’ Spriker force Watchdog into action

Brian Lowry

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