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Innocent ad ruled misleading for ‘fix up the planet’ claims

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By Ellen Ormesher | Reporter

February 23, 2022 | 5 min read

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled a campaign from drinks brand Innocent was misleading as it continues it crackdown on ‘greenwashing‘ brands.

The ad in question, ‘Little Drinks, Big Dreams’, was created last year in collaboration with Mother London. In the TV spot, animated characters sang a song with the lyrics: “We’re messing up the planet. We’re messing up real good. And filling up our bodies with more beige food than we should ...” The animation showed images of buildings and vehicles expelling pollutants, as well as litter, dirty rivers and brown unappetizing food.

The song concluded: “Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Because there is no planet B. If we’re looking after nature she’ll be looking after me.” This was accompanied by images of people in a lush green environment alongside bottles of Innocent drinks. At the end of the ad, a voice-over announces: “Innocent. Little drinks with big dreams for a healthier planet.”

Innocent ad

The ASA refuted Innocent's ad, saying it could not demonstrate that its products had a net positive environmental impact

In its ruling, the ASA said it falsely implied that “purchasing Innocent products was a choice which would have a positive environmental impact when that was not the case”.

There were 26 complainants, one of whom identified as representing activist group Plastics Rebellion, which had publicly challenged whether the ad exaggerated the total environmental benefit of the products and was therefore misleading.

In its complaint, Plastics Rebellion highlighted it is misleading to suggest that purchasing single-use plastic (as Innocent drinks use) does not have an adverse effect on the environment.

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Innocent – often touted as ‘the original purpose-driven drinks brand’ – is owned by Coca-Cola, which was recently found to be in the top three of the world’s biggest corporate plastic polluters according to Break Free From Plastic’s 2021 global brand audit report.

The brand rebutted that the ad “did not make claims that their use was better than other forms of packaging, and instead sought to show that recycling was better than throwing away”.

It also highlighted its current work on developing more sustainable packaging. Innocent considered that, aside from its credentials as a B Corp, guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) allows for companies to tell people about their dreams and aspirations for environmental change, and that Innocent chose to do that in a light-hearted and engaging way in the ad.

The ASA concluded: “Because we considered that the ads would be understood to mean that Innocent was environmentally friendly and that purchasing its products has environmental benefits, we needed to see evidence that was the case.

“Although we acknowledged that Innocent was undertaking various actions which were aimed at reducing the environmental impact of its products, that did not demonstrate that its products had a net positive environmental impact over their full lifecycles. We also noted that their drinks bottles included non-recycled plastic and that the extraction of raw materials and subsequent processing of those materials in order to produce the bottle would have a negative impact on the environment.

“Because the ads implied that purchasing Innocent products was a choice which would have a positive environmental impact when that was not the case we concluded that the ads were misleading.”

The news follows the tightening of ASA regulations on environmental comms, as well as the roll-out of the CMA’s Green Claims Code, which came into effect at the start of this year. Brands such as Alpro and Oatly have been among the first to fall foul of the new guidelines

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