Greenwashing in marketing is causing consumers to purchase and support products and goods that more less environmentally-friendly than it was been advertised, which subsequently increase the carbon footprint of both the producer and the consumer. The World Federation of Advertisers have introduced new regulations in bid to deter companies from practicing greenwashing in advertising.
When someone decides to live a sustainable lifestyle, they start reading labels and paying more attention to advertisements more closely. Finding specific information about potential purchases ensures that every product will align with a consumer’s eco-friendly beliefs and practices, but not if companies can get away with greenwashing.
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has recently released new landmark regulations for greenwashing advertising by updating six lines of guidance. These are the ways in which brands should use them to support their consumers and streamline advertising wording.
Guidelines to Prevent Greenwashing Advertising
1. Clear Evidence for Claims Is Necessary
Any brand can create an ad for a product and say that it’s environmentally friendly. There are no laws stopping companies from posting information online or on their websites, but doing so without proving why those claims are valid misleads a growing segment of consumers.
In the past five years, 85% of consumers have purchased more green products than previously. The pressing need for positive action to slow down and reverse climate change is becoming increasingly important to the global population, so individual consumers rely on accurate green marketing to proceed with their sustainable efforts.
The WFA now requires clear evidence to back up each claim within eco-friendly marketing campaigns. Wording and phrasing must not confuse consumers by using technical language that’s difficult to understand.
2. Marketing Must Include Qualifying Information
Some greenwashing campaigns use their limited space for text or graphic design as reasoning to omit material information. That information would otherwise indicate that a product isn’t as sustainable as the marketing team claims, ultimately misleading consumers.
The landmark regulations for preventing greenwashing specifically prevent that by requiring evidence for each eco-friendly claim within each marketing material. If space is an actual hindering factor, brands must include directions within the advertisement so each campaign empowers consumers to find the information independently. This will clear up any questions and prevent purposeful miscommunication.
3. Environmental Claims Will Include Full Lifecycles
If an ad for a product claims to reduce a consumer’s carbon footprint in a specific measurement, they’ll assume that it will make that particular environmental difference long-term. That isn’t always the case. The new WFA regulations specify that brands must include that information if a product’s sustainable features degrade with time.
For example, if a smart thermostat brand mentions how their latest technology reduces HVAC costs by 10% annually, they must also include the green energy savings for the product’s lifecycle. Anyone interested in buying the product will know that they won’t have to make a second investment in the near future just to maintain their sustainable lifestyle.
4. Product Comparisons Must Be Similar
Many advertisements compare a brand’s product to its competitors. Consumers can make active choices at that moment, but their choices won’t accurately reflect their eco-friendly values if the comparisons aren’t similar in nature and easy to understand.
When the fashion brand Everlane claimed that its clothing was better for the environment than its competitors because it used safer dyes, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs paused the campaign. It required Everlane to include information about Bluesign standards that determined if their dyes were in fact environmentally better.
Without those standards, consumers don’t know what makes dyes more eco-friendly than others. The new WFA regulations would require that information upfront, rather than allowing brands to publish similar information and profit from misleading information while cases work through places like the NAD.
5. Marketing Needs to Include Robust Evidence
Any company that wants to publish environmentally friendly claims about its products must now include abundant evidence to prove its case. It will give consumers more empowering information before purchasing occurs and speed any claims of objectivity in cases brought before the NAD or other regulating groups. The data can be within advertisements as fine print or within external documents mentioned in marketing materials with limited space.
6. Consumers Must Know Total Environmental Impact
All information related to the environmental impact of a product is relevant to a consumer’s ability to determine if a purchase is sustainable or not. That impact will include the carbon footprint of a company’s production processes, what materials are inside each part of a product and how the product harms or helps the environment after it’s no longer in use.
Related regulations or codes relevant to a product line are also required to appear in marketing materials. They will either prove that consumers can trust the sustainability of a specific product and how they can inquire further about why a product passed those legal standards.
Learn About the Landmark Regulations
Consumers can make more accurate purchases now that the WFA has released landmark regulations for preventing greenwashing in advertising materials. Once every brand learns how to publish material according to these guidelines, they can better serve their consumer bases and prevent misleading information in ongoing advertisements.
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