It seems to me that perhaps they have, at least in this case below.
The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has been cracking down on Greenwash for a couple of years now.
BrandRepublic reports that:
“A BMW print ad has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, after the car maker claimed that its Concept ActiveE vehicle produced “0% emissions”. A viewer complained that the claim of “zero CO2 when driving” could not be substantiated, as the car would be charged with electricity from the National Grid, which would result in the production of emissions.”
The ASA looked at the ad and said: “…the claim “0% emissions” was likely to be interpreted by readers to mean that the cars use would not result in the production of emissions. We noted that the vehicle was only able to operate because it had been charged with electricity from the National Grid, which would result in the production of emissions, contrary to the claim “0% emissions”.”
This is despite the fact that BMW had said in the ad that the lack of emissions was “when driving”, which is true, as far as I can tell.
The ASA said:
“We considered that the inclusion of the phrase “when driving” was contradictory to the overall zero emission claim and the impression that the cars use would not result in the production of emissions. We therefore concluded that the claims “0% emissions” and “zero CO2 emissions when driving” were likely to mislead.”
So the ASA is basically saying that no-one can use the term “zero CO2” if some fossil fuel power has been involved somewhere along the line.
I can understand their caution after the huge growth in dodgy green marketing in the past five years.
But I wonder if this ruling is going a little too far. BMW was not dishonest here.
Perhaps the issue is that the product is a concept car, and is not on sale yet. GM has done the same with the Chevy Volt, making people think they are producing low emission cars when really, it’s business as usual with slightly more efficient engines.
Perhaps that’s why the ASA ruled this way. If you are not actually selling the product, should you be allowed to make it look as if consumers can buy it?
That’s a different question from the ruling above. But if that’s why they made BMW pull the ad, surely they should say so?
It could be I am missing something and that would not be a valid reason, under their rulebook. So they have used the zero emissions reason as a way to have the ad pulled.
I look forward to any and all reader comments on this one…