Insights Committees of Advertising Practice publish new advertising guidance on misleading environmental claims and social responsibility


CAP and BCAP have published new guidance to assist with interpreting CAP and BCAP’s rules that concern environment-related advertising issues. These rules broadly relate to misleading environmental claims and social responsibility. The guidance includes a general overview of the principles that underpin the rules, which have been applied over decades by the ASA through rulings. The guidance sets out the existing principles of the ASA system’s regulation of environmental claims.

The Committees explain that the increased urgency for businesses and other stakeholders playing their part in tackling climate change and other environmental harms is reflected in domestic and international legislation on climate change, such as net zero targets included in the Climate Change Act 2008 (and subsequent secondary legislation) and a target to limit global temperature rise in the Paris Agreement.

To support emissions reductions at a global level, The Climate Change Committee (the CCC, an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) advises action on “consumption emissions” (broadly speaking, emissions caused during the production of goods and services consumed in the UK, irrespective of where in the world those emissions occurred). The behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero report for the CCC states that: “behaviour change has played little or no part in reductions so far” and that “The UK is not on course to meet the legally binding fourth and fifth carbon budgets and rising to the challenge of Net Zero will require major progress in all sectors and for behaviour change to play a much greater role…”.

Given the role that advertising can play in influencing consumer behaviour, the Committees say that this policy-making context is important to the regulation of environment-related advertising issues by CAP, BCAP and the ASA. It sets the broad context for the areas of concern in which the ASA will, in future, be minded to take a stricter interpretation under the CAP and BCAP Codes, where evidence exists of misleading or socially irresponsible advertising that concerns the environment.

The ASA system’s review of other ad regulators’ rules and current and planned legislation found that CAP and BCAP have sufficient and comprehensive rules already in place to tackle misleading and socially irresponsible ads relating to the environment. However, the broad context outlined above indicates that businesses will 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.

Therefore, the ASA system announced in autumn 2021 that it would carry out a series of enquiries into specific issues guided by the Climate Change Committee’s identified priority areas requiring consumer behaviour change and carbon reduction which include aviation, heating/energy, cars, waste, animal-based food. The enquiries will encompass a blend of issue-based enquiries, research and, subject to the evidence base, new guidance to help businesses get their advertising right. To read the press release in full and for a link to the guidance, click here.