Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Golden Leaves Ltd (Golden Leaves) and JC Atkinson & Son Ltd (JC Atkinson & Son)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 3 August 2022
Law stated as at: 7 September 2022
Golden Leaves and the ASA
A website for Golden Leaves made several claims about providing ‘green funerals’ including (1) describing the wooden and MDF coffins as “eco-friendly” and “green” and (2) referencing a “green” and “environmentally-friendly” funeral. The ASA challenged whether these claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
In relation to the first claim, the ASA considered that the average consumer would understand the claims to mean that the coffins had either no impact or a beneficial impact on the environment and that as the claims were unqualified, consumers would understand them to be absolute claims about the total environmental benefit of the coffins over their full life cycle, which includes burial or cremation.
A life cycle analysis assessed the cremation impact and emissions of a range of coffins when burned. It did not provide any information on whether any type of burial or cremation would have a neutral or positive environmental benefit. As such, the evidence did not demonstrate that there was no negative impact on the environment over the full life cycle of the coffins. The ASA therefore concluded the claim was misleading.
In relation to the second claim, the ASA considered that a “green” funeral would mean all aspects of the funeral and its life cycle would have a neutral or positive effect on the environment. They also considered that claims such as “the entire carbon footprint […] may be offset” would be understood to mean that choosing the plans would result in an overall neutral or positive environmental impact.
As no evidence was provided as to how the emissions were calculated to cover the whole life cycle of the funeral nor whether such schemes were credible, the ASA concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.
JC Atkinson & Son and the ASA
The claims on JC Atkinson & Son’s website that wooden or MDF coffins were “eco-friendly” or could protect and preserve the natural environment were challenged as to whether they were misleading and could be substantiated.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the unqualified claim “eco-friendly” to mean having either no impact or an overall beneficial impact on the environment over their full lifecycle, including burial or cremation.
A life cycle analysis assessed the cremation impact and emissions of a range of coffins when burned. It did not provide any information on whether any type of burial or cremation would have a neutral or positive environmental benefit. As such, the evidence did not demonstrate that there was no negative impact on the environment over the full life cycle of the coffins and the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading.
Why this matters:
To avoid making misleading environmental claims, businesses must be able to provide evidence to demonstrate the overall environmental impact over the full life cycle of the product (or service). It is clear from these two rulings that the ASA will look closely at the evidence provided when businesses make environmental claims to ensure it substantiates the claim being made.