House of Lords calls for new approach to environmental advertising

The House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee has released a report that includes several recommendations on the regulation of advertising related to the environmental impact of products.

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The Government has committed to reaching net zero by 2050 and to leave the environment in a better condition for future generations. However, analysis by the Climate Change Committee suggests that "without changes to people’s behaviours now, the target of net zero by 2050 is not achievable".

The report, In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals, makes several recommendations. The first is to improve the prevalence of positive environmental behaviours like using public transport. This recommendation points out that advertising currently runs in the contrary direction, with a disproportionate space given to high-carbon products like SUVs.

The second recommendation is to do more to counter greenwashing, build consumer trust and ensure companies that make products or provide services with lower environmental impact can compete fairly.

The final recommendation is to introduce measures to regulate the advertising of high-carbon and environmentally damaging products. The priorities are to create clear definitions of commonly used environmental terms, to which businesses must adhere in marketing and labelling their products, and banning misleading and unsubstantiated environmental claims under consumer law.

The report refers to work done by the Competition and Markets Authority in its publication of the Green Claims Code, the Advertising Standards Authority’s advice that ad regulation needs to do its part in reaching climate goals.

The recommendations have been welcomed by campaigners who have been making the case that advertising has a direct impact on the climate and thus needs to be better regulated. The group Badvertising called for “tobacco-style restrictions on advertising of high-carbon and environmentally damaging products” to reduce advertising’s climate impact.

Robbie Gillett, a campaigner at Badvertising, said: “Such recommendations coming directly from the House of Lords shows precisely how much high-carbon advertising needs regulation. For too long, corporations have downplayed or outright misled consumers on the exact impact of their products and services.

“Just as we did for tobacco, we need to stop advertising polluting products that are harming our health and our planet and move beyond the culture of hyper-consumerism that advertising promotes.”

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