Innocent drinks on display. Photograph: Shane Healey/ProSports/Rex
The drinks company Innocent has had an advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after environmentalists reported it for claiming that drinking its smoothies is good for the environment.
In the television ad, a man and his otter companion find that their boat is hijacked by revellers celebrating chaotically as they approach a large waterfall. They sing about “messing up the planet” until they find themselves in peril, hanging off the edge of a cliff. They then row back to safety, clear up the rubbish, and start turning apples on a tree into Innocent smoothies, which they all drink as they “fix up the planet”.
The brand, which is known for its “wackaging” and is majority owned by Coca-Cola, has been making an effort to improve its climate credentials among consumers.
Complainants, including the activist group Plastics Rebellion, argued that the ad implied that drinking smoothies from a disposable plastic bottle was good for the environment.
In response, Innocent said it was a B Corp, which was a certification granted by the organisation B Lab to companies that demonstrated a high social and environmental performance. Innocent said it had committed to being carbon neutral by 2030, and had opened a carbon-neutral factory that ran on renewable energy and a cleaning system that reduced water usage by 75%.
It also said it was not trying to show that smoothies are good for the environment, and was instead making a call to action to its customers not to harm the planet.
The ASA ruled in favour of the complainants. It found that Innocent’s advert drew a strong association between the drinks and a positive impact on the environment.
The ruling states that “many consumers would interpret the overall presentation of the ad to mean that purchasing Innocent products was a choice which would have a positive environmental impact”. Officials said they wanted evidence that this claim was in fact correct, and they were not satisfied with the response.
The ASA said: “Although we acknowledged that Innocent were undertaking various actions which were aimed at reducing the environmental impact of their products, that did not demonstrate that their products had a net positive environmental impact over their full life cycles. We also noted that their drinks bottles included non-recycled plastic and that the extraction of raw materials and subsequent processing of those materials in order to produce the bottle would have a negative impact on the environment.”
Innocent is now not allowed to use the advert in its current form, or make claims about the supposed environmental merits of its products without proof for them.
A spokesperson for Plastics Rebellion said: “You can’t be a major contributor to a global health and environmental emergency and claim to fix up the planet. Innocent are being disingenuous about the dangers of plastic’s threat to human health and environment, as well as trivialising the horrific scale of the problem by repeating the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. They’re guilty of brushing the plastic crisis under the carpet and trivialising it.”
A spokesperson for Innocent said: “We’re disappointed to see the ruling from the ASA. Our advert was always intended to highlight important global environmental issues and the need for collective action to make a change. We transparently share more about the work that we do on sustainability on our website. As with any new guidelines, we’d like to work with the ASA and other brands to understand how to align to them to continue the conversation on these important topics.”