Peters & Peters

French advertising body finds Watershop adverts misleading

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Key facts:

In November 2021, the JDP received two complaints from individuals, asking for it to determine whether social media messages from Watershop promoting its L’O water bottle complied with ethical rules.

The messages showed two six-packs of water side by side. The left one was wrapped in pink plastic, with “plastic party” written on it and “the past” above it. L’O water pack was on the right, with “the future” written above it. “The choice is yours” appeared at the bottom of the image.

Some of the messages displayed included: “No more overpackaging = 90% less plastic!”, “Our bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic”, “Our commitment: reduce plastic”, “Our intention: to help you consume better and responsibly”, “More information on eco-lo.org”, and one of the ads featured the hashtags “#zerowaste”, “#ecoresponsible”, “#ecofriendly”, “#savetheplanet”.

The first complainant considered that the product was not “0 waste” since it was still made of plastic. Further, the claim that there was 90% less plastic was incorrect, in view of the weight of the packaging, and amounted to greenwashing. The second complainant argued that the advertisement amounted to greenwashing and encouraged polluting and impoverishing purchasing behaviour, under the guise of environmental consciousness.

The JDP noted that given the weight of the overpackaging and the plastic bottles in a “classic” pack, the elimination or reduction of the overpackaging could not, mathematically, lead to a 90% reduction in the plastic used. Assuming that Watershop intended to apply this proportion of 90% only to the plastic in the outer packaging of classic packs, the messages should have specified this to ensure no ambiguity arose.

The expression “help you consume […] responsibly” was also disproportionate given the ecological impact of consuming water in plastic bottles, the environmental harm from the entire life cycle of the bottles, the absence of infinite recycling of all the bottles on the market, and the limited ecological interest, even if real, represented by removing only excess packaging. The same went for the hashtags mentioned above.

The other allegations in the messages, however, did not appear to contravene the ethical rules invoked.

The JDP therefore ruled that, to this extent, the messages disregarded various provisions of the “Sustainable Development” Recommendation.

Source(s):

JDP opinion

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