The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) conducted a study in 2021 around Climate Change and the Environment. The importance of consumer understanding of “carbon neutral” and “net zero” claims in advertising should be researched as a priority, given their increasing prevalence and the potential for consumers to be misled by them.

This research had some key findings:

  • There is a wide range of consumer involvement in environmental matters, which influences their understanding of and response to environmental claims.
  • The most encountered claims are related to being carbon neutral and achieving net zero, but there is a lack of consensus regarding their exact meaning. Many people believe that these claims imply a significant reduction in carbon emissions or the intention to achieve such a reduction. However, there are calls for clear and standardised definitions of these terms, along with the need for an official body, like the government, to oversee and regulate such claims.
  • When consumers become aware of the potential use of offsetting in these claims, they may feel deceived or misled.
  • Participants in discussions expressed the desire for more transparency in advertisements regarding offsetting practices and target dates to help consumers make more informed decisions.

Due to the findings of their research, the guidance on how you should advertise if you are ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘net zero targets’ has changed so that consumers are not mislead.

Updated guidance

Low understanding and lack of consensus around the meaning of carbon neutral and net zero claims has lead to the guidance being updated to reduce misleading:

• Avoid making unqualified claims of carbon neutrality, net zero, or similar without providing supporting information. Including details about the basis of these claims is crucial to help consumers understand the underlying factors, and such information should not be omitted.

• Marketers must ensure that they accurately communicate whether they are actively reducing carbon emissions and to what extent, or if their claims rely on offsetting. This is necessary to prevent consumers from mistakenly assuming that products or their manufacturing processes generate minimal or no emissions.

• Claims that pertain to future goals of achieving net zero or carbon neutrality should be supported by a verifiable strategy to demonstrate their feasibility.

• If claims are based on offsetting, they should adhere to the standard requirements for objective claims outlined in this guidance. Marketers should also provide information about the specific offsetting scheme they are utilising.

• Qualifying information related to a claim should be presented near the main aspects of the claim, ensuring that consumers can easily notice and consider it before making any decisions. The less prominent and more distant the qualifying information is from the main claim, the more likely it is to mislead consumers.

Greenham’s Claims

It can be difficult when choosing a supplier to purchase your PPE which you believe has the least impact on the environment when lots have ‘carbon neutral’ PPE claims. At Greenham we are honest and transparent with our claims ensuring our customers can trust what they are reading to be correct which is also backed by approved governing bodies.

Bunzl Greenham have a target of becoming Net Zero across all Scopes by 2050 at the latest.  This target is further supported by our SBTi approved interim targets:

  • 50% more carbon efficient across Scope 1 and 2 by 2030
  • 27% absolute reduction across Scopes 1 and 2 by 2030
  • 79% of suppliers to have their own science-based targets by 2027.

We believe it is paramount to have SBTi approved targets as this demonstrates our carbon reduction plan to be in line with the 1.5 degree Paris Agreement and legally binds Bunzl Greenham to achieve a minimum 90% absolute reduction before any offsetting of emissions is permitted. 

It is our professional opinion that offsetting is not the way forward to tackling climate change which is why we procure 100% renewable electricity from REGO back sources and have already seen a 24% absolute reduction across Scopes 1 and 2 since our 2019 baseline and will continue to drive this reduction.

To find out more about what we are doing to reduce our impact on the planet, view our sustainability through safety page on the website and our most recent sustainability report.