Email and the Law

Misleading Environmental Advertising

I don’t want to appear negative in the face of positive management, but it used to irritate me when told to treat a near disaster as an opportunity to be exploited. It was always a lot more complex than that. That doesn’t stop the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) campaign to tackle misleading environmental claims being heralded as bad news for email marketing. Much as I hate to use the phrase, it’s more an opportunity we can exploit.

The campaign started in September last year and, given the many problems email marketing was subject to around that time, it was probably easy to miss. It seemed to say little at first. The ASA, together with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would jointly shine a ‘brighter regulatory spotlight’ on environmental advertising. In other words, perhaps, do their job.

Misleading Environmental AdvertisingThe CMA were first into the breach, publishing their six principles:

1/ claims must be truthful and accurate,
2/ claims must be clear and unambiguous,
3/ claims must not omit or hide important relevant information,
4/ comparisons must be fair and meaningful,
5/ claims must consider the full life-cycle of the product or service,
6/ claims must be substantiated.

At a time of higher prices, wage stagnation, and supply difficulties the last thing email marketing needs is more restrictions. But if you look carefully at these principles, you will find that they are, more or less, what we are required to do now. This is a positive.

The publication of these principles, plus the promise the ASA will be focusing on carbon reduction and claims about waste, including terms such as ‘recyclable’, ‘biodegradable’, and ‘plastic alternative’, might cause a number of companies might feel it is a little too risky to run with positive environmental claims. This is good news.

The final principle, that claims ‘must be’ substantiated, rather than ‘can be’ substantiated, could be seen as ambiguous. Every other principal is fairly clear on definition and, just as importantly, intent. Complying with each will be a doddle, if you’re prepared to put in a little work.

The principles can be summarised quite simply: be open and honest in your claims, don’t obscure anything and, just as importantly, don’t hide behind interpretations. This is good email marketing dogma. If you try to mislead your subscribers, you could well get away with it for a while, but sooner or later they will bite you. If they put it on social media, they could destroy you.

You don’t need me to tell you that environmental concerns are of importance to many people, and with B2B, companies you are selling to might well not want to be exposed as dealing with those who pollute. To mix metaphors, greenwashing is not an accusation you wish to be tarred with.

The claim that your company is concerned with its effect on the environment will aid most email marketing campaigns. But it must be based in fact, not only to protect you from resentment of your subscribers, but from the scrutiny of the ASA.



30 days full functionality - No credit card required - INSTANT ACCESS