Code for Environmental Advertising (MRC)
Article 1. Applicability
This Code applies to all environmental claims, in other words, to all advertising messages referring implicitly or explicitly to environmental factors connected with the production, distribution, consumption or waste processing of goods, or with related services ( hereinafter known collectively as ‘products’).
Explanation of Article 1
The Code applies to the entire life cycle of all goods and services, i.e. from production (including the processing of raw materials) up to and including waste processing. Whether the Code is applicable in borderline cases is a matter to be decided by the Advertising Code Committee and the Board of Appeal. It should be borne in mind that each advertising message is assessed in terms of the General Code, even if it is not classified as an environmental claim and the Code for Environmental Advertising is therefore not applicable.
Article 2. No misrepresentation
Environmental claims shall contain no statements, pictures or suggestions that may mislead the consumer concerning environmental aspects of the products recommended or the contribution of the advertiser to maintaining and promoting a clean and safe environment in general.
Explanation of Article 2
Article 2 is also broadly formulated. An advertisement can be misleading not only because of factual statements but also through pictures or suggestions, or precisely because information or warnings are lacking. What matters ultimately is the total impression created by the advertising message.
In practice, the misleading element of advertisements is often the fact that minor advances are represented too emphatically as a breakthrough. Marginal improvements should be presented as such. Also see articles 4 and 5.
The article barring misleading advertising messages always applies, regardless of the fact whether environmental claims violate one or more other articles. Assessment is always made in terms of the other articles in addition to assessment in terms of article 2, since environmental claims may under no circumstances be misleading.
Article 3. Demonstrability
All environmental claims shall be demonstrably correct. The burden of proof rests with the advertiser. The more absolute the formulation of the claim is the more stringent are the requirements with respect to evidential material.
Explanation of Article 3
Freedom of communication means that businesses and private individuals are under obligation, in the event of complaints, to subsequently account for statements they have made and, if necessary, demonstrate that a communicated message is correct. The burden of proof therefore lies with the advertisers.
The more absolute the environmental claim, the more stringent is the requirement of evidential material. Absolute claims therefore require heavily convincing evidential material. Using current technology, it is unlikely that evidence can be produced to show that the products
are absolutely harmless to the environment. This is why great restraint is needed in relation to absolute claims. It should be realized in this connection that expressions such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘clean’, ‘green’ and ‘good for the environment’, if used without further substantiating evidence are likely to be interpreted quickly by the public as absolute claims.
Absolute claims, however, are not prohibited. An advertiser who can demonstrate that its absolute claim is correct should be permitted to use this claim.
It should also be noted that the Code for Environmental Advertising also applies to advertising messages that warn against environmental effects of particular goods or services. Advertising messages of this kind that are couched in absolute terms likewise demand very convincing evidential material.
Article 4. Constituent parts and aspects
Should environmental claims relate exclusively or virtually exclusively to particular constituent parts or aspects of the products recommended, this limitation shall be stated clearly.
Article 5. Absence or reduction of constituent parts
An environmental claim that relates to the absence or reduction of constituent parts that are environmentally harmful is permissible only in the following cases:
• if any replacement parts are less environmentally harmful and
• if no wrongful assertion or suggestion is made that comparable products do possess these environmentally harmful constituent parts.
Article 6. Comparisons
This article was withdrawn as of 1 October 2000.
Article 7. Designations and symbols
Environmental designations and symbols shall not be used unless the origin of the designation or symbol is clear and no confusion can arise on the meaning of the designation or symbol.
Explanation of Article 7
The debate on environmental hallmarks, designations and symbols is presently in full swing. Hallmarks issued by recognised institutions (which satisfy for example the requirements of the Council for Certification) could constitute important evidential material in demonstrating the correctness of an environmental claim.
In this article the possibility is left open that entrepreneurs (companies) introduce and use their own environmental symbols and the like. The symbols shall, however, comply with two criteria: the origin shall be clear and confusion about the meaning of the symbols shall be excluded.
The origin of the symbols can be made clear by mention thereof in the advertisement or by the use of a generally known symbol. The meaning of the symbol shall be clarified by the advertisement itself or otherwise by generally accessible information.
Article 8. Scientific works
Quotations from, and reference to scientific works shall be representative and verifiably correct. Should the scientific works not be generally accessible, the advertiser shall submit such works on request when a complaint is handled.
Article 9. Testimonials
Testimonials used in environmental claims shall be based on the expertise of the person or body giving them.
Explanation of Article 9
Famous football players may know a lot about football and housewives should be well qualified to assess whether a particular brand of margarine fries meat to the right shade of brown, but the opinions of a footballer or a housewife on the environmental aspects of certain products are not based on the expertise required for making an assessment.
Such quotations are therefore very likely to be misleading and must be avoided. The speaker quoted should be an expert in the field he is talking about.
Article 10. Waste processing, collection and recycling
Environmental claims that relate to (separate) refuse collection and/or waste processing are permissible only if the recommended method of collection or processing is sufficiently available to the target group for which the environmental claim is intended. Environmental claims which relate
to the recycling of products or parts of products are permissible only if a sufficient proportion of the recommended products or parts are actually recycled.
Explanation of Article 10
A particular problem that can occur nowadays is that (separate) refuse collection and/or waste processing and/or recycling is feasible in theory but (still) not sufficiently available in practice. The authorities have an important task in this connection, but industry too has responsibilities. In a number of industries, consultations are already being held with the authorities about the problem of waste and/or rules have been introduced or covenants concluded.
These often provide for a phased approach. Such an approach and its success in practice are important criteria in determining whether facilities will be available to ‘a sufficient extent’.
As always, an important factor is how absolute the possibilities of waste processing, separate collection and recycling are presented.
Article 11. Environmentally unfriendly behaviour
Advertising messages shall not set as an example environmentally unfriendly behaviour that is avoidable, nor shall such behaviour be encouraged.
Explanation of Article 11
The Code is intended to ensure and encourage a justified use of environmental claims. A logical corollary here is that advertisers refrain from needlessly encouraging or setting examples of behaviour that causes gratuitously damage to the environment, such as pictures of environmentally harmful waste being discarded in the countryside. The article is not intended to prohibit advertisements for products that are to some extent harmful to the environment, since ultimately that refers to almost all products. It is also not intended to make the provision of factual product information impossible.
Article 12. Government rules
Notwithstanding the provisions of the paragraphs 1 through 11, environmental claims are permissible if they comply with specific advertising rules issued by government authorities in connection with environmental issues.
Explanation of Article 12
This article is intended to prevent the accumulation of rules. The Code does no longer apply if the government has introduced specific rules concerning advertising on environmental matters.
This Code became operative on 1 January 1991 and was revised on 1 October 2000.