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ASCI issues guidelines to promote honest environmental claims in ads

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Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued its guidelines to prevent false pro-environment claims, also known as greenwashing, that have been seen across sectors.

These “Guidelines for Advertisements Making Environmental/ Green Claims”, have been in the public domain for consultation since November 16, 2023, and were approved in the recent Board of Governors meeting.

Effective February 15, 2024, these guidelines aim to ensure that environmental claims made by advertisers are reliable, verifiable, and transparent.

The ASCI guidelines state that brands have to provide strong data or credible accreditations to support their green or environment-friendly claims about their products and services.

The guidelines for ads claiming to be environmentally friendly were issued on Thursday to enable consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions about products and services making these claims.

The guidelines, which will be effective February 15, aim to ensure that environmental claims made by advertisers are reliable, verifiable, and transparent.ASCI has deemed greenwashing, which involves misleading environmental claims about products and services, as a violation of its Chapter 1 code, which emphasises the significance of honest advertising.Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI said consumers must have the correct information to make informed choices to support green products since they are paying a premium for them.

“It is also important that organisations that genuinely provide greener products can communicate this clearly to consumers. The government has also expressed concern about greenwashing or false green claims, and we believe that these guidelines are a significant step towards promoting transparency and accountability in environmental/ green claims made in advertising,” she added.

The guidelines require comparative claims like “greener” or “friendlier” to be supported by evidence of the advertised product or service providing environmental benefits over its previous product or competitor’s product.

Ads must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit that a product or service offers by highlighting the absence of an environmentally damaging ingredient if that ingredient is not usually found in competing products or services, the guidelines state.

Furthermore, ads cannot claim environmental benefits due to legal obligations if competing products meet the same requirements, the ASCI said.

It also asked advertisers to ensure that environmental claims about their products and services are certified by agencies that have been nationally or internationally accredited by an agency such as the UN Council or the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

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