Businesses in the drinks, hospitality and leisure sector are under pressure from governments and consumers alike to make changes to tackle climate change and other environmental harms. Sustainable hospitality is no longer a nice to have, it is a basic requirement, and it impacts the bottom line. According to Marriott Bonvoy’s recent Travel Trends survey, 63% of consumers factor environmental considerations into their travel planning.
“Sustainable” is a big word and many brands aren’t sure where to start: banning plastic straws is just the beginning. Businesses need to be thinking about reducing waste, saving energy and cutting down on water usage across their entire supply chain. They also need to be conscious of the green claims they are making. “Sustainable hospitality” and “eco hotels” are terms that are bandied around, but regulators are clamping down on greenwashing, interpreting the term more and more broadly.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently updated its guidance on making environmental claims and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has expanded investigation into the environmental claims made across the retail sector, to also cover fast-moving consumer goods. The drinks, hospitality and leisure sector could be next.
Tips for managing risk
To manage your risk, take the following into consideration when making environmental claims in your advertising or marketing:
- Be honest – be honest with yourself and your consumers about the changes your brand has made to become more environmentally friendly, and don’t overstate.
- Be clear – what are you trying to say? Really think about your message and how it could be interpreted. Vague claims such as “Protecting the future” can be environmental claims.
- Substantiate your claims – you need to hold the data necessary to substantiate all claims you are making. You cannot rely on repeating claims made by your supplier, or even data held by your supplier.
- Beware of comparative claims – make comparisons fair and meaningful. Claims such as “Kinder to the planet” are not acceptable if it is not clear first, what they are kinder than, and second, how they are kinder to the planet.
- Consider the net impact of your business on the environment – big players such as HSBC and Shell have got caught out when making claims that they could substantiate, because their advertising did not make clear their business’ overall impact on the environment. If it isn’t clear, spell it out.
- Use buzzwords – claims such as “sustainable” or “eco” don’t mean very much. The CMA has specifically said that “Problematic claims include the use of vague and broad eco-statements, for example packaging or marketing a product as ‘sustainable’ or ‘better’ for the environment with no evidence; misleading claims about the use of recycled or natural materials in a product and how recyclable it is; and entire ranges being incorrectly branded as ‘sustainable’.”
- Hide or omit important relevant information – if your claim only relates to part of your product, or part of its lifecycle, say so. Link through to a web page that gives consumers more information on what you are doing and the intended impact. The more information you can give, the less likely it is that your claim will be found to be misleading.
- Make assumptions – Tesco fell foul of the ASA rules when it said, in relation to its plant-based products, that “a little swap can make a difference to the planet.” The ASA acknowledged that it was generally accepted that meat-heavy diets have a greater environmental impact than plant-based diets, however they also noted that plant-based products could contain ingredients sourced from around the world, meaning they could have a high carbon or negative environmental impact. You need to be able to substantiate the specific claims that you are making.
- Underestimate the data you need to substantiate your claims – old data, data covering only part of the claim, product, or product life cycle, or data covering only certain competitors in relation to absolute (“best” / “lowest emissions”) claims will not be sufficient. Gathering the relevant data may seem like an unduly arduous process, but it is necessary.
- Lose sight of your consumer – customers want clear guidance on how to go green and are relying on their trusted brands to help them. Go on the journey together.
Join our webinar
To learn more please join our free webinar: Sustainability with substance – know your risk in relation to environmental claims.
For further information contact Iona Silverman
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.