Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Intrepid Travel Group UK Ltd (Intrepid Travel)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 7 November 2022
Law stated as at: 12 June 2023
A complaint was made against Intrepid Travel for an advertisement in the form of a poster displayed on the London Underground. The poster featured two people in front of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. The image was accompanied by the text “People & planet-friendly small group adventures since 1989.” The advertisement was challenged on the basis that the claim may have misleadingly downplayed the environmental impact of Intrepid Travel’s holidays.
The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) requires that the basis of environmental claims are clear and that any claims made are based on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the advertisement explicitly states otherwise.
Intrepid Travel argued that the claim did meet the limits of “life cycle” as the average reader would interpret the claim as limited to its small group of tour offerings rather than an absolute environmental claim. Intrepid Travel argued that the claim was narrow and direct, emphasising that the inclusion of the Pyramids of Giza implied a reference to their Egypt tour. It also provided details of its carbon offsetting program, certification as carbon neutral and various other initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The ASA upheld the complaint, stating that the claim “people & planet-friendly small group adventures” was an absolute claim that implied no environmental damage throughout the full life cycle of an Intrepid Travel tour. Although the ASA noted that Intrepid Travel did not offer flights as part of their travel packages, overall the ASA considered that the claim was not qualified with information regarding the necessary travel to and from the destination location. Including the Pyramids of Giza and the words “planet friendly” suggested that travel to and from the destination was likely to involve flying. While acknowledging Intrepid Travel’s environmental initiative, the ASA found that these initiatives did not specifically relate to the life cycle of a holiday with Intrepid Travel as interpreted by consumers. Further, the carbon offsetting program did not account of all emissions attributable to consumers’ travel. As a result the ASA concluded that the claim had not been adequately substantiated and misleadingly downplayed the impact of Intrepid Travel’s holidays.
The ASA found that Intrepid Travel’s advertisement breached CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), and 11.1, 11.3 and 11.4 (Environmental claims).
Why this matters:
This ruling highlights the importance of the need to make clear and substantiated environmental claims in advertising. The ASA has emphasised that claims must be made and based on the full life cycle of the product and should not mislead consumers about its environmental impact. Any businesses wishing to advertise and make any green claims will need to provide robust evidence to support absolute claims and ensure that the basis of their environmental claims is made clear to avoid misleading consumers.