France does not allow “carbon neutral” advertising to avoid greenwashing.
From 1 January 2023, it will be forbidden to advertise a product as “carbon neutral” in France without proof of this. The government will take steps to ensure that all companies back up their claims with data or promise compensation for the environment.
President Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking another term in office, is keen to show that he has been firmly committed to the environment during his five years in office.
On Thursday, the government published a decree on disclosure rules for carbon offsetting as part of the Climate and Resilience Law.
It will ban the advertising of products as “carbon neutral” from next year without documenting the claim. This will apply to advertising on the internet, television and billboards.
Companies will have to provide information on their carbon footprint associated with products or services, from initial manufacture to disposal or conversion through recycling.
This document, which will be posted on the company or service’s website via a QR code, must be accompanied by a clear strategy to avoid, or failing that, reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions.
The regulation aims to “promote transparency to the public and prevent ‘greenwashing'”, the government said in its report on the January public consultation.
However, the initiative has been criticised by NGOs such as the consumer group CLCV, who say the text is not “ambitious enough”.
“Placing a QR code leading to a website is not enough. Offsetting measures should be explicitly referred to on the same advertisement, and it should be mentioned that all products cause greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Otherwise, the public may misinterpret it and believe that the product in question has no impact on the climate,” Lisa Faulet, CLCV science spokeswoman, told AFP.
- The ban on outdoor heat lamps in French cafés and restaurants will come into force.
- The French are “overexposed” to off-road vehicles because of relentless advertising, the NGO warns.
The Climate Resilience Act stems from a series of relief measures put forward in the Civil Climate Convention (CCC). The original aim was to “prohibit the mention in any advertising of products known to have a negative impact on the environment”.
The watered-down version was challenged by the CCC in a vote on the extent to which the government had transposed the Convention’s proposals into law. It scored only 2.6 out of 10 in terms of meeting the desired objective.
It also provoked an angry reaction from the advertising industry.
Before the measure became law, several NGOs had already taken legal action to address the issue of “green” promises in advertising.
At the beginning of March, Greenpeace France, Les Amis de la Terre France (Friends of the Earth France) and Notre Affaire à Tous (Everyone’s Cause) filed complaints against TotalEnergies for “deceptive commercial practices”, pointing the finger at the company’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050 and its portrayal of gas as the “cleanest” form of fossil fuel.