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20 Nov 2023



The latest research from the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) found too much confusing and vague language in online advertising, urging for a ban on generic terms and stricter rules for businesses making green claims.

CPRC Deputy CEO and Digital Policy Director, Chandni Gupta, said there is evidence Australians look for environmentally friendly products often shelling out extra despite the mounting cost of living.

“We found that the energy sector is making the most green claims on social media, with 19% of ads in our data set coming from the energy sector, followed closely by the household products (14%) and fashion sectors (12%).

“When we looked closely at these ads we found they often used vague or unclear terms that didn’t help consumers meaningfully compare options.

“When a company makes claims like it’s a “greener company” or that their brand is “for the planet” it gives the organisation a green halo without having to be clear about what they’re actually doing for the environment,” Ms Gupta said.

Professor Christine Parker, Chief Investigator at ADM+S said the research examined over 20,000 impressions from more than 8,000 Facebook ads, revealing a lack of common meaning across many environmental terms.

“We found the terms ‘clean’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are the most commonly used terms in ‘green’ social media ads but lack concrete meaning.

The study:

  • Analysed over 20,000 impressions and 8,000 Facebook ads.
  • Found a lack of common meaning in many environmental terms.
    • 2,482 impressions of ads used the term “clean” to describe an energy product, packaging or the general product with no consistent meaning.
    • 2,282 impressions of ads used the term “green” often with little context about what the company was doing.
    • 2,174 impressions of ads used the term “sustainable” often with little context about what the company was doing.
  • Found specific emojis (for example, ♻️🌏💚) and colours are used to imply an environmental benefit, which may or may not be accurate.
  • Recommends the ban or precise definition of terms for consistency.
  • Calls for government guidelines on claims, including on the use of colour and imagery.
  • Recommends prohibiting high-polluting industries from making environmental claims in advertising.

Ms Gupta said businesses need to be held accountable, “we need for laws to stop green claims that are confusing and unhelpful for consumers.”

The report recommends regulatory measures such as a ban on generic environmental terms without substantiation or context, akin to those proposed by the European Union, to safeguard consumers from misleading environmental advertising.

“It highlights the need for businesses to deliver on their green promises and for the government to play a proactive role in creating a transparent and consistent framework for environmental claims,” Ms Gupta said.

More information, including the full report, Seeing Green: Prevalence of environmental claims on social media, is available at:


Chandni Gupta is available for comment on request contact CPRC or ph: 0493 539 466.


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Media contacts:

  • Liliana Campos, CPRC Communication Manager 0493 539 466
  • Karen Kissane, Research Communications, Melbourne Law School 0423 905 313
  • Kathy Nickels, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator (07) 3138 3828
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society

Further information:

The report showed businesses use green claims and words creatively, taking advantage of different interpretations, all to make consumers see them or their products as more environmentally focussed.

For example the word ‘clean’ used by various industries may have different meaning, the ad with mining images mentions ‘clean tech’ in the caption, which may make it seem more environmentally friendly.

The report identified a number of ads that made vague and unhelpful claims about green credentials. These claims may be accurate but they don’t provide helpful, comparable information for consumers. For example, 


Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) is an independent, not-for-profit, consumer think-tank established to work with policymakers, regulators, academia, industry, and the community sector to develop, translate and promote evidence-based research to inform practice and policy change.

The ADM+S Centre

The ADM+S Centre The ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) is a cross-disciplinary, national research centre, which aims to create the knowledge and strategies necessary for responsible, ethical, and inclusive automated decision-making (ADM). Funded by the Australian Research Council from 2020 to 2027, ADM+S is hosted at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, with nodes located at eight other Australian universities, and partners around the world. The Centre brings together leading researchers in the humanities, social and technological sciences in an international industry, research and civil society network. The Centre aims to contribute to the mitigation of the social and economic risks in the development and implementation of ADM, and to improve outcomes and efficiencies in four key focus areas where automation is already well advanced: news and media, transport and mobility, health care, and social services.


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