The NAD has recently become an arena for advocacy groups to challenge brands that make claims that they are environmentally responsible. Brands that make claims that they are more eco-friendly, using goal-oriented language, must back those claims with actual commitments and actions. The NAD has frequently decided in favor of enforcing those promises to go green.
“Net Zero” Heroes
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) brought a challenge against JBS USA Holdings, Inc, to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau (NAD). IATP is a nonprofit that works towards the sustainability of food systems and farms. JBS is the second-largest food company and largest animal protein producer in the world. Global food systems and supply chains would be impossible to change overnight, considering the scale of production, but many businesses and brands make commitments to consumers that they are actively moving towards more eco-friendly practices. JBS made a number of claims that included:
- “JBS is committing to be net zero by 2040”;
- “Global Commitment to Achieve Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2040”;
- “Bacon, chicken wings and steak with net zero emissions. It’s possible”; and
- “Leading change across the food industry and achieving our goal of net zero by 2040 will be a challenge. Anything less is not an option.”
IATP challenged the aspirational claims because, they contended, JBS did not take actions or disclose specific steps towards a net zero future. Net zero is a well recognized standard setting greenhouse gas reduction goals for the short and long term, defined by and legally binding under the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference that year. IATP alleged that JBS made misleading advertising claims that it was committed to net zero sustainable practices, and was rewarded with more business.
JBS submitted evidence of its investment in more sustainable practices, including significant initial investment, but the NAD ruled in favor of IATP. Since net zero has accompanying action steps, including long and short-term goals defined by the Paris Agreement, making aspirational claims of “net zero by 2040” requires substantiation. The NAD ruled that JBS can modify the claim to a more narrow scope and outline what steps are being taken to meet this goal. JBS appealed to NARB, so this case is still pending.
Going net zero and other more eco-friendly practices requires many administrative, process, production, and–as we see here–advertising changes. Brands need to substantiate green claims, as well as green goals, or risk losing big in reputation and revenue.
To see more claim substantiation blog posts like Stain on Green Claims: NAD Finds “Net Zero” Claims Unsupported, click here.