BMW, MG adverts banned over greenwashing concerns


(Photo: Advertising Standards Authority)

Corporations developing sustainable carbon reduction products also need to avoid getting caught up in greenwashing controversies. German car manufacturer BMW and the UK-based MG Motor (Morris Garages) were called out by UK regulatory authorities for allegedly making inappropriate claims of "zero carbon emissions" in their advertisements, leading to a ban on their release.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) pointed out that BMW and MG Motor used "zero carbon emissions" as promotional content in their advertisements for electric and hybrid vehicles, misleading consumers because these vehicle models still produce carbon dioxide during production and consume fossil fuel to generate electricity.

The Financial Times described the decision to take down the advertisements as precedent-setting, indicating that any car manufacturer selling electric vehicles must be mindful that the term "zero carbon emissions" applies solely to tailpipe emissions during vehicle operation.

Regarding the advertisements for MG Motor's hybrid vehicles, ASA stated that “any associated ‘zero-emissions’ claim needed to clarify that it referred to emissions while the vehicle was driven on the electric motor. The claim of “zero-emission” should “never” be made for cars that feature petrol or diesel engines. MG Motor responded by removing the term “zero carbon emissions” from its advertisements.

BMW has committed to transparently disclosing the carbon emissions generated during the manufacturing process of its vehicles and not to use "Zero Emission Cars" as a keyword to avoid automatic keyword insertion in Google's feature, which could lead to consumer misunderstanding.

According to an analysis from Edie, a sustainability-focused online press, the decision by the UK authority may hinder the development of electric vehicles, especially as the UK has postponed its ban on the sale of fuel cars from the originally planned 2030 to 2035. Edie also found that the European Union, which is also expected to implement a ban in 2035, mostly stated that new light vehicles "must have zero emissions" and almost did not emphasize tailpipe emissions specifically.

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