How do you file a complaint against a greenwashing ad?

Few people are aware, but each of us can decide to file a complaint against an advertisement (or any form of communication - social networks, TV, radio,...) before an advertising ethics jury. It is simple and very fast.

The advertising sector has imposed rules of good conduct itself to avoid misleading communication. And he added a whole new dimension in terms of ecological communication. States are also beginning to add some rules, but businesses are still making a lot of mistakes and thus (deliberately or unintentionally) deceiving citizens.

Although there are still very few consequences for the companies involved, filing a complaint nevertheless has a highly symbolic impact: it makes it possible to show that these misleading messages do not go unnoticed and it therefore pushes companies little by little to change their marketing and communication practices.

As ADEME says very well, greenwashing is an obstacle to ecological transition. It is therefore important to review the way brands communicate to avoid any deception or lack of transparency with respect to products or services distributed on a large scale.

So how do you file a complaint against an advertisement? You will understand it, it only takes a few minutes and can be summarized in 3 steps.

0. Learn about the various rules of greenwashing

To know if an advertisement or a brand communication is tainted by greenwashing, you must already be able to recognize it. To do this, nothing better than to read the few rules given by the advertising sector itself (available hither for Belgium and hither for France) or to read The rules given by ADEME

1. Go to the JEP or JDP website

The JEP (Jury of advertising ethics) in Belgium or the JDP (Jury of advertising ethics) in France are organizations launched by the advertising sector itself to frame the communication of advertisements in the country in question. These juries analyze the complaints received and determine whether the communications analyzed violate the ethical rules they have imposed on themselves.

All you have to do is go to the jury site in your country and click on “File a complaint”.

The JEP (Belgium) website is available hither.

The JDP (France) website is available hither.

2. Complete the complaint form

Nothing could be simpler. You will be asked to provide information about the advertising or communication you wish to file a complaint against. The best is to have a photo of the ad in question, but it is also possible to describe it if you do not have a photo or if it is not/no longer possible to take one (example: a radio spot). You will also be asked to locate the place and date when this advertisement was discovered.

3. Give the reasons for your complaint (we give you the classic sentences to give)

This is where step 0 becomes interesting, because you have to know why you are filing a complaint, of course. The reason must be well-founded. In addition to judging the subject related to advertising, the best thing is to be able to give the jury indications on the points of attention you want to pay attention to.
We make your work easier, here are 3 standard sentences that you can use depending on the case you are facing (these are the cases that come up the most often, but of course they must remain adapted to your complaint):

  1. The words used are much too strong and do not demonstrate proportionality in terms of the real ecological impact. This communication is therefore likely to mislead citizens as to the environmental impact of the products/services promoted.
  1. The words used suggest that the product/service has no ecological impact, although it does, like any product or service. This communication is therefore likely to mislead citizens as to the environmental impact of the products/services promoted.
  1. The illustrations used associate the brand with nature and are therefore likely to mislead citizens about the real environmental impact of the products/services promoted.

Other things can, of course, be judged, such as the veracity of the communication (lies). To do this, we redirect you to the rules of the advertising ethics juries mentioned above.

And... that's all!

It's no more complicated than that. As explained above, these complaints do not (yet) have any financial or other consequences for businesses. They are only symbolic, but they make it possible to give public visibility to the attacked communication if the complaint is accepted. The company is also informed of the complaint and the opinion of the jury. She can therefore (unfortunately there is no obligation yet) remove the advertising or modify her communication in order to respect ethics.

At GiveActions, we try to have a constructive approach in order to raise awareness in the advertising sector about greenwashing. Our objective is not to push everyone to file a complaint at any time, but to provide the keys to carrying out a civic act. An act that is also encouraged by the juries themselves since they need complaints from citizens to carry out their mission. And unfortunately sometimes it is necessary to raise the tone... GiveActions does not file a complaint on its behalf because that is not our role. On the other hand, as a player in the sector, it is our duty to provide the keys so that any citizen can do so. For more examples, discover the complaints considered well-founded and unfounded by advertising ethics boards on the sites of JDP and JEP.

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