Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Evergreens (UK) Ltd (Evergreens), trading as ArtificialGrass.com
Where: United Kingdom
When: 8 June 2022
Law stated as at: 1 July 2022
Two online videos and a website statement regarding Evergreen’s AIR artificial grass were challenged by the ASA on the basis that the claims stating the product is “eco-friendly” and could improve air quality were misleading.
The claims made in the two videos posted on ArtificialGrass.com and one of LazyLawn’s social media channels were that Evergreen’s artificial grass was “capable of reducing up to 70% of harmful nitrogen oxides” and “comparable to the air purifying effects of one mature tree“.
The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) requires that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and any claim that is unqualified could mislead a consumer if it omits significant information. The ASA considered the claim “eco-friendly“to be an absolute claim and, without further context or qualification, would be understood as meaning AIR artificial grass was not harmful in any way to the environment.
Although Evergreens were in the process of conducting a full environmental impact report to demonstrate the net-positive environmental impact, the ASA found AIR had a negative impact on the environment as the grass was made from plastic. The ASA stated that “even if it was transported efficiently and recycled at the end of its life cycle“, it was “the extraction of raw materials and subsequent processing of those materials” that meant it was harmful to the environment in some way.
Furthermore, having assessed the evidence provided by Evergreens, the ASA found that the claims regarding air purification were not substantiated and were misleading. Evergreens provided a brochure which featured excerpts from a lab report to support the claim that AIR was able to “reduce nitrogen oxides by 70 percent“. However, the ASA found that the testing had been conducted on a small sample of artificial grass under laboratory conditions and considered that the observed reduction in NOx was significantly below the 70% reduction claimed in the ads.
The ASA also considered Evergreens’ evidence (two studies and a best-practice document focused on the impact of trees on air pollution) for the claim that “one metre squared of AIR treated grass is comparable to the air purifying effects of one mature tree” did not show that AIR artificial grass had the same air purifying abilities as a mature tree and was therefore inadequate substantiation for the claim.
All three claims were upheld and Evergreens were told by the ASA to ensure their advertising did not overstate the environmental benefits and air purifying qualities of their products.
Why this matters:
The ASA has made it clear in this ruling that any environmental or green claim needs to be simple, precise and supported by robust evidence. Businesses must therefore be aware of their choice of wording and phrases used, even if they believe their product has a net positive environmental impact, and ensure that any environmental claim made is clearly backed up and supported by evidence.
It is also worth noting that the ad was challenged by the ASA, demonstrating the ASA’s commitment to tackling green claims as the issue rises on the consumer agenda.