New York, NY – March 16, 2023 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising law body of BBB National Programs, recommended that the American Beverage Association (ABA) modify certain aspirational claims regarding the use of recycled materials in bottles, as well as claims relating to ABA’s partnerships with non-profit organizations and efforts to achieve sustainability goals.
ABA is the trade association for the U.S. nonalcoholic beverage industry whose members are The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper, and PepsiCo.
The advertising at issue, which appeared in a video run on national cable channels and on the advertiser’s website, had been challenged by the National Advertising Division (NAD) as part of its independent routine monitoring of truth and transparency in U.S. national advertising. Following NAD’s decision (Case No. 7011), ABA appealed NAD’s findings and recommendations that it modify specific claims in its video and website.
In the underlying decision, NAD determined that ABA “provided a reasonable basis” for several environmental benefit claims related to its Every Bottle Back program. But NAD recommended that ABA modify several claims that NAD determined overstate the extent to which plastic bottles currently sold by ABA members are made from recycled plastic resulting in a reduction in plastic waste, and the results of its partnership with several organizations regarding reducing plastic waste.
In agreement with NAD, the NARB panel concluded that the following statements convey unsupported claims to consumers:
The NARB panel found that the following claims convey to reasonable consumers that a significant amount of recycled content is currently used by the industry to produce new single use plastic bottles and that there is a resulting reduction in plastic waste today:
The NARB panel noted that while ABA may have intended simply to explain the potential for bottles to be recycled, the ad went beyond that, conflating current recycling practices and outcomes with aspirational practices and outcomes. Therefore, the NARB panel recommended that the advertiser modify the video claims to further clarify that these statements relate to aspirational goals.
Further, the NARB panel stated that the claims should not convey that there is current significant use of recycled bottles by industry to produce new bottles or any current significant reduction in plastic if that is not the case.
Claims About the ABA’s Partnerships
The NARB panel found that ABA members are actively participating with third-party partners in their recycling efforts, but that the following claims overstate the actual work being done:
Therefore, the NARB panel cautioned ABA to ensure that claims made in regard to the partnerships reflect what the partners are currently doing, and clearly convey future plans if that is the purpose of the message.
The NARB panel lauded the industry’s goals and stated that NARB’s assessment of the claims and evidence does not prevent the advertiser from making future supported claims as its goals are attained or that contain effective calls to consumer action.
ABA said that it “appreciates NAD’s conclusions that many of our claims are substantiated, including that our member companies are designing 100% recyclable plastic bottles and are increasing awareness of that fact.” And while ABA “disagrees with NARB’s conclusions related to our partnerships and the recycling process” it “will comply with the NARB Decision and explore how best to modify.”
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs, a non-profit organization, is the home of U.S. independent industry self-regulation, currently operating more than a dozen globally recognized programs that have been helping enhance consumer trust in business for more than 50 years. These programs provide third-party accountability and dispute resolution services that address existing and emerging industry issues, create a fairer playing field for businesses, and a better experience for consumers. BBB National Programs continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-and-teen-directed marketing, data privacy, dispute resolution, automobile warranty, technology, and emerging areas. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for BBB National Programs’ advertising self-regulatory programs. NARB’s panel members include 85 distinguished volunteer professionals from the national advertising industry, agencies, and public members, such as academics and former members of the public sector. NARB serves as a layer of independent industry peer review that helps engender trust and compliance in NAD, CARU, and DSSRC matters.