ASCI Proposes Guidelines to Deter False Environmental Claims

On November 16, 2023, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) released the draft guidelines on environmental or green claims. This draft has been formulated with a view to ensure that consumers are not misled by advertisements, marketing material, branding, etc. making false claims regarding the environmental benefits of a product or service.

As per the draft guidelines, greenwashing refers to “false, deceptive, misleading environmental claims about products, services, processes, brands or operations as a whole, or claims that omit or hide information, to give the impression they are less harmful or more beneficial to the environment than they really are”.

The Council has sought feedback from the public on the draft guidelines by December 31, 2023.

Some of the proposals are as follows: –

  • Advertisements should not make use of visual elements that give a “false impression” about the product or service. For instance, the use of a recycling symbol on packaging which cannot be recycled.
  • Claims indicating that a product has no impact or only positive impact, by use of terms such as “sustainable”, “ecofriendly”, etc. should be backed by evidence.
  • Before making claims regarding future environmental objectives, advertisers should have developed actionable plans for realising them.
  • Advertisements should specify the limits of the product or service’s life cycle; if environmental claims are based on certain parts of such life cycle, there should be no allusion to the total environmental impact of the product or service so as to deceive customers.
  • While making an environmental claim, disclosure has to be made clarifying that the claim refers to the product, or a portion of the product, its packaging, etc.
  • The certifications and seals of approval depicted in advertisements should be obtained from a certifying authority that is recognised nationally or internationally.