Why was innocent drink advertising banned? Greenwashing claims explained after complaints firm misled customers
Innocent has had its animated ‘Little Drinks, Big Ideas’ campaign banned by the Advertising Standards Authority
Drinks company Innocent has had an advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it ruled the company’s advert had ‘misled’ customers about the brand’s environmental impact.
Environmentalists, including activist group Plastics Rebellion, have complained that the ad implied drinking smoothies from a disposable plastic bottle was good for the environment.
Innocent is no longer permitted to use the ad in its current form, or to make claims about the supposed environmental merits of its products without proof.
What was in the ad?
The ads show animated characters encouraging people to “fix the planet” by buying Innocent drinks.
TV, YouTube, and video-on-demand ads showed animated characters singing the lyrics, “We’re messing up the planet.” We are really wrong,” against the backdrop of buildings and vehicles spewing pollutants, litter and dirty rivers.
An otter then pulls out a guitar and continues, “OK, let’s try this instead,” then sings, “Let’s go fix the planet.” Fix it real good,” as the background shifts to a brighter, greener color palette with images of planted trees.
The song ends: “Reduce. Reuse. To recycle. Because there is no planet B. If we take care of nature, it will take care of me”, accompanied by images of people relaxing in green surroundings, many next to bottles of Innocent drinks .
At the end of the commercial, a voice-over reads: “Innocent. Small drinks with big dreams for a healthier planet.
Why was the ad banned?
Twenty-six viewers complained to the ASA that the adverts had misled customers by exaggerating the drinks’ “total environmental benefits”.
The ASA ruled in favor of the plaintiffs – it found that Innocent’s advertising established a strong association between drinks and a positive impact on the environment.
The ruling states that “many consumers would interpret the overall presentation of the advertisement to mean that buying Innocent products was a choice that would have a positive environmental impact.”
The watchdog noted that Innocent’s beverage bottles include non-recycled plastic and that extracting raw materials and further processing those materials to produce the bottle would have a negative impact on the environment.
The ASA said: “While we acknowledged that Innocent was taking various actions to reduce the environmental impact of its products, this did not demonstrate that their products had a net positive environmental impact across their entire life cycle. life.
“We also noted that their beverage bottles contained non-recycled plastic and that extracting raw materials and further processing these materials to produce the bottle would have a negative impact on the environment.”
“Because the advertisements implied that purchasing Innocent products was a choice that would have a positive environmental impact when it was not, we concluded that the advertisements were misleading,” the ASA added.
What are the claims of greenwashing?
Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim aimed at misleading consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.
A Plastics Rebellion spokesperson said: “You cannot be a major contributor to a global health and environmental emergency and pretend to fix the planet.
“Innocents are dishonest about the dangers of plastics’ threat to human health and the environment, while trivializing the horrific scale of the problem by repeating the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra.”
“They are guilty of sweeping the plastic crisis under the rug and trivializing it,” they added.
What did Innocent say?
Innocent said the advertisements did not suggest buying the products themselves would result in a positive environmental impact, but were instead a statement about its broader environmental goals.
The company warned the ASA that continuing the complaints could prevent other brands and manufacturers from taking action and communicating positive environmental actions they were taking.
Acknowledging that it uses single-use plastic packaging, Innocent said its goal as a business is to use the minimum amount of plastic while supporting recycling.
Its ambition was to recycle 70% of their bottles by 2023.
The company also said it was working to develop more sustainable packaging.
Innocent said: “We are disappointed to see ASA’s decision. Our advertising has always aimed to highlight important global environmental issues and the need for collective action to bring about change.
“We transparently share more about the work we do on sustainability on our website.”
The company added, “As with any new guidance, we would like to work with the ASA and other brands to understand how to align with them to continue the conversation on these important topics.”
How eco-friendly is the brand?
Innocent is owned by Coca-Cola, which produces around three million tonnes of plastic packaging per year, the equivalent of 200,000 bottles per minute.
In 2019, it was named the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste carried out by the charity Break Free From Plastic.
Bottles sold by Innocent in the UK contain 50% recycled plastic and 50% virgin material, not including caps and labels.
Environmental groups have repeatedly campaigned for single-use plastic to be drastically reduced to prevent pollution.
Scotland has announced it will ban most single-use plastics from June 2022.
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