More transparency for 'green' buyers

* Environmental claims to be clearer * Designed to avoid misleading marketing * Consumers 'will' benefit...

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What Car? Staff
15 July 2010

More transparency for 'green' buyers

Car buyers can expect clearer and more consistent information on a car's green credentials after the launch of a new code of practice for automotive advertising.

The Best Practice Principles project is supported by the Low Carbon Vehicles Partnership (LowCvp), the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA).

The plan's backers say it will help car buyers make informed choices by making environmental information clearer and more accessible.

Paul Everitt, the SMMTs chief executive, said 'The UK motor industry is delivering an increasing range of low-carbon vehicles to the marketplace presenting customers with more choices than ever before. To help buyers better understand the environmental benefits these vehicles provide, industry is introducing new guidance for environmental marketing claims.

'The Best Practice Principles set out clear and concise guidelines for businesses endorsing products within the sector, so consumers can rely on a consistent approach to sometimes complex data and information. SMMT will support industry as it adopts these measures to ensure future communications meet industry standards.'

The 'principles
Areas covered by the Best Practice Principles include:

General principles and definitions
This section calls for advertising and marketing to be decent, honest and legal, and that consumers should be able to access product information with ease.

Environmental principles
According to this section, environmental claims should be specific, not mislead and be capable of substantiation. It also states that 'green' claims should be transparent, unambiguous and clearly worded.

Accessibility of information and plain language
Among the principles in this section, the document wants pertinent information, such as CO2 figures, to be accessible in as few clicks as possible when published on manufacturer websites.

It should also be made clear if environmental claims apply to the vehicle, to particular components or technology, or the manufacturer as a whole.

Consumers should be informed if environmental claims are disputed by a significant division of informed scientific opinion.

Data should be referred to in commonly adopted standards, such as CO2 measured in g/km. It also says that average mpg should be used as standard where only one measure of consumption is stated.

Comparisons must also compare like with like and make it clear whether they relate to an individual model, or model range.

Imagery and symbols
The use of green imagery such as trees, vegetation or the colour green within advertising campaigns should convey a level of environmental performance that is proportional to the 'green' claim being made.