The South Africa Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines

There are more and more products in the market place claiming to be environmentally friendly, both overseas and in the local South African market.  Smart consumers should be aware of “green-washing” whereby consumers are mislead regarding the environmental practices or environmental benefits of a product or service.

The South African Advertising Standards Authority (also known as ASA) is an independent body set up and paid for by the marketing and communication industry to ensure that a system of self regulation works in the public interest. The ASA has a president independent of the industry and the full details of the code and membership can be found at

Of specific interest for the environmental and green industry is Appendix J – which sets out the guidelines for advertising containing environmental claims as set out by the Marketing Federation of South Africa.

Key guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority

  • Advertisements containing general statements such as “environmentally friendly”, “ozone friendly” or “green” or graphics or symbols designed to convey a similar environmental message, will not be permitted unless qualified by a description of the benefit conferred, for example: “ozone friendly –free from CFCs”
  • Advertisements may not claim that a product is recyclable, merely because it is technically capable of being recycled, unless reasonably accessible facilities exist for collection and recycling.
  • An advertisement should not contain vague, incomplete or irrelevant statements about environmental matters, nor should it impair public confidence in the efforts made by the business community to improve its ecological standards.
  • Corporate claims in advertising may refer to specific products or actions, but may not imply that they can extend to the company’s performance functions as a whole unless this can be substantiated.
  • Environmental signs or symbols used in advertising should clearly indicate their source and should not imply official approval.

If marketers don’t follow these guidelines, their competitors or any member of the public may lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority.  If the company is found to be transgressing the code, the offending advertisement may have to be withdrawn immediately.

Source:, viewed 22nd November 2010