Crackdown on Astroturfing

Astroturfing is advertising, or PR, seeks to create the impression of being spontaneous grassroots, often green, behaviour. Hence the reference to the artificial grass: AstroTurf.

During September, the Advertising Standards Authority (the UK equivalent of our Advertising Standards Bureau) received 93 complaints regarding environmentally friendly claims in 40 different ads. The organisation says more and more companies are creating unproven impressions of environmental sustainability and other green claims before the science is completely developed.

Our colleagues at The St James Ethics Centre alerted us to this checklist:

  • Get your facts right. Don’t exaggerate the environmental benefits of your product: advertising claims should be backed up with documentary evidence.
  • Scientific knowledge is developing all the time. Don’t present claims as being universally accepted if the science is inconclusive.
  • Don’t use pseudo-science or terms that will not be generally understood by the readers of your ad.
  • Avoid sweeping or absolute claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘wholly biodegradable.’ It’s unlikely you’ll be able to prove your product has no environmental impact.