Taking steps to uphold its responsibility to end greenwashing practices and support the shift towards a sustainable future, the Australian advertising industry has proposed a new code to combat greenwashing .

Following an extensive public review, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has released an exposure draft of its Environmental Claims Code and is inviting further public comment.

The new draft code will bolster the existing advertising self-regulation system and align with consumer protection laws and the ACCC’s guidance on greenwashing.

The ACCC released its final guidance on greenwashing in December, while flagging that emissions and offsetting claims would next in the spotlight.

AANA’s draft Environmental Claims Code outlines five key rules: 

  • ensuring truthfulness and factualness in claims, 
  • supporting claims with evidence, 
  • clarity and avoidance of vagueness, 
  • basing claims on genuine environmental benefits without overstating, and 
  • ensuring that future claims have reasonable grounds at the time of making the claim.

Committed to eradicating greenwashing

AANA CEO Josh Faulks, emphasised the industry’s commitment to eradicating greenwashing, noting that the exposure draft’s release demonstrates the industry’s strong commitment to stamping out greenwashing. He said, “The aim of releasing the Exposure Draft is to give the public, government and industry a further opportunity to help shape the standards around environmental claims.”

The AANA, along with its sister body Advertising Standards, plays a pivotal role in self-regulating advertising content in Australia. The AANA is responsible for rule-making, while Advertising Standards adjudicates complaints.

The need for such a code was highlighted last year when an advertising campaign by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) was criticised for its misleading environmental claims about natural gas. 

The Advertising Standards Community Panel found that APPEA’s television ads made unsubstantiated claims about natural gas being a cleaner fuel source.

Faulks remarked on the advertising regulatory system’s agility in adapting to community standards and global developments, saying “That’s why we regularly review all the codes through a transparent and public process”.

However, John Pabon — a corporate sustainability consultant, former UN advisor and analyst, and author of ‘The Great Greenwashing’ — is sceptical of the code’s impact. He questioned whether the advertising framework could surpass existing regulatory measures, saying “It’s going to be a real proof-in-the-puddling sort of thing”.

Regardless, the new draft code represents a proactive step by the advertising industry in Australia to address growing concerns about greenwashing, although its effectiveness remains to be seen.

AANA invites feedback to the Exposure Draft which will assist in finalising a new Environmental Claims Code. Interested parties have until 5pm on Friday 22 March 2024 to submit their comments.

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