ASA dents green image of Down to Earth range

Reckitt & Colman made misleading claims in its attempts to win over consumers to two of its "green" cleaning products, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ruling will help to maintain the pressure on the Government to live up to its promise three years ago to introduce statutory controls over environmental claims.

The ASA's verdict followed a complaint by Lever Brothers about newspaper advertisements placed by R&C for its "Down to Earth" washing-up liquid and concentrated automatic liquid.

Launched in 1991, the Down to Earth range has been pitched at the "pale green" consumer. Last month, the company claimed that sales of the brand doubled in 1993, mainly at the expense of "deep green" competitor Ecover. The claim was contested by Ecover, which also criticised R&C for breeding cynicism among consumers about cleaning products with reduced environmental impacts (ENDS Report 229, p 24 ).

That criticism has now been given support by the ASA, which upheld three of the four complaints submitted by Lever:

  • R&C claimed that its washing-up liquid "looks after rivers", and that "we get independent experts to conduct stringent tests for biodegradability, on the whole product, to ensure we're reducing the harm to the environment." Lever objected to the implications that R&C's products were more biodegradable and less harmful to the environment than its competitors', and the ASA agreed after concluding that R&C was unable to provide evidence that its products were less harmful.

  • Another of R&C's claims was that the citrates in its concentrated washing liquid "replace phosphates which can harm aquatic life." Lever objected to the implication that phosphate is used in competing automatic liquids, and the ASA upheld this complaint as well after hearing that phosphate is not used in the vast majority of such products.

  • Down to Earth "isn't tested on..animals", claimed R&C. But the company had to confess that its products' ingredients had been subject to animal testing even if the whole products had not. The ASA also asked for this claim to be deleted.

    The only claim found to be accurate by the ASA was that R&C's liquid was as effective in removing stains as petroleum-based cleaners.

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