Brazil's new green self-regulatory guidelines came into effect on August 1, 2011 as, Standards for AdvertisingContaining Appeals of Sustainability ("Guidelines").

Not surprisingly, the Guidelines include some of the basics found in most green guidelines – e.g., claims must be verifiable, precise and accurate and the touted benefit has to be significant in terms of the total impact of the product/service on the environment throughout its life cycle.

Don't Encourage Disrespect for the Environment

The Guidelines also have some provisions we don't see much in North America, although you do in Europe: basically, that ads shouldn't directly or indirectly encourage bad environmental behaviour – for example, creating pollution (whether of air, water, forests, other natural resources, cities or noise), degrading flora, fauna or other natural resources, or wasting resources. An extreme example of the type of ad meant to be discouraged might be one showing an SUV racing through a forest and trampling plants, with the driver dumping garbage out the window into the creek as he drives.

The approach taken by the above provisions – i.e., wanting ads to influence behaviour as opposed to just not being deceptive – is akin to what is often done in guidelines relating to alcoholic beverage advertising in Canada (e.g., don't show people consuming alcohol and doing tasks requiring skill) or advertising to kids (e.g., don't show kids consuming enormous portions of food that's bad for them).

Corporate sustainability ads

Brazil's Guidelines also have their eye on companies that advertise about their own responsible and "sustainable" conduct. If they talk about their efforts, they have to have already done what they are talking about or, if they're talking about what they're going to accomplish in the future, they have to disclose what they're doing to realize that. (Clause 1, Concreteness).

What ' s the overall impact of the business?

One provision that might be interesting in its application is Section 6, dealing with "relevance". This requires the environmental benefit touted to be significant in terms of the overall impact that the business (or the brand, product or service, as the case may be) has on society and the environment throughout their process and cycle, from production and marketing to use and disposal. We will look forward to seeing how the new guidelines affect green advertising in Brazil, and how and whether other Latin American countries will follow suit.

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