Two Cases Of Greenwashing, The Advertising Ethics Jury Agrees

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Passed (in France) in 2020, the Anti-Waste Law For A Circular Economy (AGEC) dictates that receipts will be printed at the customer’s request, except in special circumstances.

Since then, several “start-ups” have aligned themselves to electronic receipts. Taking advantage of the new law, which has been postponed several times, they have developed communication campaigns highlighting the environmental interest of not using paper receipts. Faced with this flood of greenwashing, Two Sides France submitted two case complaints that seemed fitting for the Advertising Ethics Jury. On January 31st 2024, the jury agreed with Two Sides on those cases.

Aside from the fact that it’s hard to see how, if a consumer doesn’t need a paper ticket, giving them a digital ticket would be more virtuous, the communications from these companies frequently resort to clichés commonly employed to endorse digital “solutions.” Consequently, an excess of statements has emerged featuring generic ideas and sweeping statements praising the merits of avoiding paper, while omitting the environmental consequences of digital alternatives, claiming forest conservation, and asserting the positive aspects of an eco-friendly digital receipt allegedly in compliance with the above mentioned AGEC law.

Quipo, “Finally A Truly Eco-Responsible Receipt Dematerialisation Solution”. Really?

Quipo states, “Finally a truly eco-responsible ticket dematerialisation solution”, ensuring that “each time you scan a receipt, you make a noble gesture for the planet”, committing to “[join] them in this quest for a cleaner and greener world using Quipo” and “turn your receipts into eco-friendly acts!”. In support, a “my eco-impact” calculator is an integral part of its application and constitutes an essential feature of its service. By means of numbers not sourced, Quipo highlights the impacts avoided by not using paper receipts. Supporting of this calculator, no source is mentioned, no impact of digital is taken into account, and according to what Two Sides France have been able to review, figures concerning paper are completely false. Not forgetting of course, the inevitable cliché of trees saved, thanks to the digital receipts from the till.

Billiv, “The First Dematerialised And Eco-Responsible Receipt Compliant With The AGEC”. Nothing Less!

Billiv, for its part, also offers this type of globalising claim, providing qualitative comparisons without source or detail. Billiv also promises “a positive impact on the environment and on the health of consumers”, and to save “2.5 million trees.” Above all, Billiv claims an “eco-responsible” receipt, ignoring the AGEC law which prohibits this type of general mention, and a digital receipt “compliant with the law AGEC”. This point is remarkable as this law nowhere states that a merchant must provide a digital ticket to replace paper. Can digital technology comply with an ecological law that does not deal with digital receipts?

The Advertising Ethics Jury Has Decided!

The Advertising Ethics Jury pointed out that these companies’ communications do not comply with the Advertising authority standard, which is a benchmark in the industry. In the case of Quipo, the Jury observed that “the messages lack adequate justification and are disproportionate to the extent of the action undertaken by Quipo through its application to generate a digital receipt.”

Furthermore, it noted that “the company fails to supply specific details or information regarding the actual ecological footprint of its digital service solutions or the impact of its own operations, particularly those generated through its application for the benefit of users.” Furthermore, concerning trees, “the jury recalls that paper can be produced by recovering scrap wood from sawmills or with trees felled for the maintenance necessary for the proper management of forests.

“To conclude, the Jury indicates that the presentation of its service by Quipo “does not reflect the reality of Quipo’s actions and is also, as such, of a disproportionate nature with regard to the reality of the environmental impact of its activities, likely to mislead the public.”

Regarding Billiv, the Jury highlights that the asserted compliance with the AGEC “lacks clarity, creating ambiguity as it suggests digital receipts are an alternative form expressly required for by law.” Drawing attention to the criticised statistics concerning the production of paper receipts in France, indicating the potential impact on 1.5 million trees and 15 billion litres of water, the Jury observes that “these figures are not accompanied by any source citation. Additionally, concerning trees, they may lead to the misconception that trees are indiscriminately felled for this purpose, without acknowledging the nuanced reality that paper can be produced from reclaimed wood or trees felled for necessary forest management.” Here again, the Jury concludes “that these messages, because they tend to minimise [Billiv’s] own impact and are incomplete or too brief with a few globalising formulas, are likely to mislead the audience.”

Dematerialisation Does Not Exist

After the previous case of Docusign, submitted to the Jury by Two Sides France with the same success in 2022, these opinions remind us that digital communication in all its forms has environmental impacts that can no longer be ignored. Unless you go without tablets, servers, cables and networks, “dematerialisation” does not exist. As such, all companies are subject to environmental marketing standards and regulations. Two Sides will continue its dialogue with companies that use this type of argument to alert them to the risks of greenwashing to which they expose their brand and their reputation, risks confirmed today by the outcome of the Advertising Ethics Jury.

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