The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has proposed a new framework for advertisers to present truthful and evidence-based environmental claims.

The council has prepared a comprehensive draft guideline on "Environmental/Green Claims," to end greenwashing – the deceptive practice of making misleading environmental claims. The guidelines seek to cover all environmental or green claims that are explicit or implicit in nature. These claims can appear in advertisements, marketing material, branding (including business and trading names), on packaging or in other information provided to consumers. The draft is in the public domain for stakeholder comments now.

"ASCI's draft guidelines on Environmental/Green Claims are a crucial step to ensure that consumers who wish to support green brands have the correct information to make an informed decision. These guidelines set a standard for advertisers, and aim to foster a culture of transparency and authenticity in advertising in the best interest of the consumers," Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI said.

The draft guidelines insist that absolute claims such as but not limited to "environment friendly," "eco-friendly," "sustainable," "planet friendly" that imply that the product advertised has no impact or only a positive impact must be supported by a high level of substantiation. It states that environmental claims must be based on the full life cycle of the advertised product or service, unless the advertisement states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. "If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product or service might be justifiable. Claims that are based on only part of an advertised product or service's life cycle must not mislead consumers about the product or service's total environmental impact. Unless it is clear from the context, an environmental claim should specify whether it refers to the product, the product’s packaging, a service, or just to a portion of the product, package, or service," the guideline says.

The environmental claims that are being targeted through the guidelines include claims that suggest or create an impression that a product or a service has a neutral or positive impact on the environment, is less damaging to the environment than a previous version of the same product or service or a competitive product, or has specific environmental benefits. The ASCI is an independent, self regulatory body set up by the advertisement industry.

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