The Code defines “advertisement” or “advertising” as any form of marketing communication carried by the media, usually in return for payment or other valuable consideration. It includes a broad admonition that advertisers avoid or appropriately qualify general claims of environmental benefit, a position that has been the underpinning of advertising guidance for years. General environmental claims that may prove difficult to substantiate using accepted scientific methods should be avoided.
There has been renewed interest in green marketing by advertisers and marketers, consumers, self-regulatory organisations and governments, because of an increase in the number of claims, many of them vague, non-specific or general in nature. One reason for the proliferation of these general and vague claims may be the growing interest by the media, government, investor advisory and stock rating agencies, and consumers about the impact of human activities on the environment and how to promote “sustainable” consumption and use. In turn, many companies have adopted “sustainability” programmes or appointed corporate officers to focus on improving environmental sustainability. Social responsibility initiatives that include environmental compliance, workplace safety, fair labour practices, and more, are sometimes also addressed in “sustainability” programmes.