March 1, 2022 – In January 2022, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made three rulings regarding environmental claims. Even though these decisions do not concern cosmetic products, it is essential to spread this news because similar claims can also be made about cosmetics.
What is the Advertising Standards Authority?
The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK regulatory body for advertisements. ASA is responsible for investigating when receiving a complaint about a commercial that violates the Advertising codes. It is also in charge of monitoring the market to ensure the rules are implemented and respected.
Moreover, in September 2021, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a Guidance to help manufacturers make environmental claims. In the document, the CMA identified the relevant principles:
- “Claims must be truthful and accurate;
- Claims must be clear and unambiguous;
- Claims must not omit or hide important relevant information;
- Comparisons must be fair and meaningful;
- Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service;
- Claims must be substantiated” (CMA, 2021).
Considering the above, let’s analyze the three ASA rulings.
ASA Ruling on Roxane UK Ltd. t/a Aqua Pura
The first case concerns a drink product claimed to be in <100% recycled & recyclable bottle with eco-friendly cap>. Indeed, only the bottle itself was made from recycled plastic, while the lid and the label were not. ASA concluded that the claim was misleading because the average user would understand that all the bottle components came from recycled material.
Moreover, ASA judged the claim <eco-friendly cap> and <nature friendly> as misleading. The Company argued that since the cap was attached to the bottle, it could not get lost in nature, harming the birds, which could mistake it for food. However, ASA classified it as an absolute claim implying a total environmental benefit, which was not the case. In conclusion, it must be clearly stated which is the environmental benefit claimed.
ASA Ruling on Pepsi Lipton International
The second ruling refers to a poster in which a drink product was advertised as <100% recycled>. In the claim, there was an asterisk linked to the further specification < Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label>.
In its judgment, ASA concluded that the claim was misleading because the further specification was written “in very small text in the left-hand bottom corner of the ad, and therefore it could be overlooked” (ASA, 2022). Moreover, ASA recalled that they should not ”imply that their product packaging was made from 100% recycled material where it contained components that did not meet the criteria” (ASA, 2022).
ASA Ruling on Oatly UK Ltd t/a Oatly
On January 26, 2021, ASA published a ruling concerning the advertisements of an oat drink claimed to have several environmental benefits. The ASA judgment highlights that:
- If a claim is only related to specific products of the brand, the advertisement has to specify it clearly;
- General scientific claims must be based on scientific consensus, not on the opinion of only one expert;
- Comparisons and percentages must be detailed.
What about the EU?
In the EU, there is no law explicitly regulating environmental claims in cosmetics. “National competent authorities can only prohibit environmental claims that they find to be misleading towards consumers on the basis of a case-by-case application of the existing EU consumer law, i.e Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices (UCPD)” (EC, 2020).
At the moment, cosmetic claims – including the environmental ones – must comply with the criteria set by the Commission Regulation (EU) No. 655/2013:
- Legal compliance;
- Evidential support;
- Informed decision-making.
In November 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution highlighting the urgency to tackle greenwashing. In this context, the European Commission is planning to adopt two legislative acts that will require companies to substantiate environmental claims based on product and organization environmental footprint methods. In this way, consumers will be able to make informed decisions on their purchase. The Inception Impact Assessments have been conducted during summer 2020, and the legislative proposals are expected in the second quarter of 2022.
Claims are a vital part of brand marketing strategy: make sure your claims are effective and compliant! Should you need help, contact Obelis!
And do not forget to subscribe to the monthly COSlaw Newsletter: you will be informed about any cosmetics regulatory news!
- ASA. (2022). ASA Ruling on Oatly UK Ltd t/a Oatly. Retrieved on 04/02/2022 from https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/oatly-uk-ltd-g21-1096286-oatly-uk-ltd.html
- ASA. (2022). ASA Ruling on Pepsi Lipton International. Retrieved on 04/02/2022 from https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/pepsi-lipton-international-a21-1120048-pepsi-lipton-international.html
- ASA. (2022). ASA Ruling on Roxane UK Ltd. t/a Aqua Pura. Retrieved on 04/02/2022 from https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/roxane-uk-ltd-g21-1120958-roxane-uk-ltd.html
- Obelis. (2022). The European Commission’s quest against “greenwashing”. Retrieved on 15/02/2022 from The European Commission’s quest against “greenwashing” (obelis.net)
- CMA. (2021). Guidance. Making environmental claims on goods and services. Retrieved on 08/02/2022 from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/green-claims-code-making-environmental-claims/environmental-claims-on-goods-and-services
- European Parliament. (2020). European Parliament resolution of 25 November 2020 Towards a more sustainable single market for business and consumers. Retrieved on 15/02/2022 from Texts adopted – Towards a more sustainable single market for business and consumers – Wednesday, 25 November 2020 (europa.eu)
- European Commission. (2020). Legislative proposal on substantiating green claims. Retrieved on 15/02/2022 from Environmental performance of products & businesses – substantiating claims (europa.eu)
- European Commission. (2020). Inception Impact Assessment. Empowering the consumer for the green transition. Retrieved on 15/02/2022 from Consumer policy – strengthening the role of consumers in the green transition (europa.eu)