Until recently, the Italian legal framework (both, statutory as well as regulatory) lacked of provisions specifically regulating 'green claims'. The topic used to be governed by the principles and requirements set for commercial communication in general, which were to be found in various 'sector or media specific' provisions.
Local lawmakers' attention towards 'green marketing' - and its rapidly increasing variety of claims related to the theme - rose to a higher level, when EU Directives 2007/65/EC of December 11th, 2007 (on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities) and 2010/13/EU of March 10th, 2010 (concerning the provision of audiovisual media services) were implemented into domestic law. The EU Directives required that "1. Member States shall ensure that audiovisual commercial communications provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction comply with the following requirements: .....(c) audiovisual commercial communications shall not: ..(iv) encourage behavior grossly prejudicial to the protection of the environment.." (So Section 9 of Directive 2010/13).
While Italy transposed this provision into domestic law by exactly inserting it into the Radio & TV Broadcasting Code without any changes to the Directive's wording, still no specific regulation of green claims resulted available.
The (Industry) Code of Marketing Communication Self‐Regulation took a similar approach (from a safety perspective) and required that "Marketing communication involving products that may potentially endanger health, safety or the environment, especially when such dangers are not immediately recognizable, should indicate such dangers clearly." (Wording of Section 12, governing 'Health, Safety and Environment', 57th edition of the Code).
In spring 2014, the Institute for Advertising Self-Regulation – IAP found that it was time to address the topic of green marketing (and its dark side, the questionable practice of 'green washing') through specific provisions of its code.
To the purpose, when updating the Code to its 58th version, the Institute decided:
- To reserve a specific section (no. 12) to the 'protection of the environment', requiring that "commercial communication stating or conveying the impression of environmental or ecological benefits, has to be based onto true, relevant and scientifically verifiable data. Such communication must also allow to perceive immediately which aspects of the promoted product or services the claimed benefits specifically refer to" (the English translation is that of the article's author and not an official one).
- To transfer the (unchanged) provisions on safety issues, previously dealt with in section 12, to a new section 12-bis.
The local advertising industry is now keen to see the first decisions of the IAP's Jury, enforcing the new provisions against improper green claims.
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