Promoting products or services using slogans related to their positive environmental impact is becoming an increasingly prominent marketing technique in the public space. International initiatives such as the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and climate neutrality policies are among the reasons for the growing popularity of so-called 'green claims'. More and more consumers also expect businesses to pay attention to their company's environmental impact and are taking these claims into account when making purchasing decisions.
New marketing strategies can carry the risk of so-called 'greenwashing', defined as misleading advertising about the environmental impact of a product or service. The use of slogans indicating the climate neutrality of a good or service or the reduction of CO2 emissions may encourage consumers to purchase a company's products. These claims, however, must be verifiable. If there is a lack of objective data confirming the advertiser's claims, such actions may qualify as misleading consumers.
Although such campaigns may fall under general laws (e.g. covering unfair market practices), there has been a lack of regulations and guidelines related to environmental advertising. In 2022, the European Commission launched an initiative to create a new directive1 regulating, among other things, environmental advertising and messaging. This work is still in progress and it may be months before these regulations are enacted and implemented into Polish law.
In order to make it easier for entrepreneurs to construct advertising campaigns now, the Advertising Council2, a Polish self-regulating organisation with numerous international companies as members, has prepared new provisions of the Advertising Code of Ethics on environmental advertising.
Documents issued by the Council are not universally binding, but may serve as a code of good practice in advertising activities in Poland. There is also an Ethics Committee at the Council, which reviews complaints about advertisements that potentially violate the Advertising Code of Ethics.
The new provisions of the Advertising Code of Ethics introduce the following:
- The obligation to formulate environmental advertising in clear, simple and understandable language;
- A prohibition on violating public confidence in environmental efforts;
- A prohibition on messages that are factually inconsistent, unmeasurable or unverifiable;
- A prohibition on extending statements about a specific product or activity to the advertiser's entire business;
- The obligation to indicate conditions or reservations if the veracity of environmental advertising depends on their existence.
Activities that could constitute greenwashing are also being monitored with increasing attention by the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK).
According to press reports, investigations into potential greenwashing are underway concerning the advertising campaigns of seven entities, including Allegro (the largest marketplace in Poland) and LPP (major Polish fashion retailer), as these companies have confirmed.
For misleading advertising campaigns aimed at consumers, which violate the collective consumers’ interests, the President of UOKiK may impose a fine on the company of up to 10% of its turnover. Managers may also be fined for such violation – up to PLN 2 million (approx. EUR 440,000).
For more information on the requirements for environmental advertising in Poland, contact your CMS client partner or local CMS experts.
2 A member of EASA (European Advertising Standards Alliance), an international advertising self-regulatory organization.