ASA turns off Anglian Water ad after sewage complaints

anglian waterAnglian Water has become the latest company to be hauled up for greenwashing, after it washed over its dodgy history of releasing sewage into rivers in an ad which pushed its environmental record.

The TV ad, which ran last autumn, was designed to promote the water firm’s building of wetlands, and featured a girl saying: “Right now, Anglian Water is creating wetlands to clean water using nature and make homes for wildlife.

“By building a really long pipe to bring water to places that need it most, while protecting nature too. And huge tanks to collect rain, so there’s less chance of floods in the future. In fact, everything they do today is for tomorrow.”

The ad showed wetland, fields and wildlife, tanks collecting rainwater, a wind turbine, and an Anglian Water van with text on the side that read: “100% Electric 0% Emissions”.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority received nine complaints that the claims were misleading because they did not mention how the firm had previously released sewage into rivers.

In response, Anglian maintained the ads were not misleading and were part of a wider, multi-media and multi-channel campaign which explained each initiative and presented a more complete picture of the impact Anglian Water had on the environment, and how they were taking steps to reduce it where it may have been detrimental.

The campaign also included addressing criticism aimed at both Anglian Water and the industry more generally regarding perceptions of environmental performance.

The ASA, however, was not impressed. Despite acknowledging that Anglian Water was carrying out a number of activities that could have a positive impact on the environment, the watchdog banned the ad.

Its ruling stated: “Because they also carried out activities that caused harm to the environment, which contradicted the overall impression of the ad, we considered that was material information which should have been made clear in the ads. We concluded that the ads omitted material information and were therefore misleading.”

Anglian Water said it did not believe that the ad was misleading but apologised for “unintentionally” misleading customers. A spokeswoman said: “We fully accept the ruling and took prompt action to remove the advert in line with the ASA’s guidance.

“We take our responsibility to protect and enhance the environment incredibly seriously and are investing almost £800m this year to address issues related to spills, preserve water resources and protect against severe weather and flooding.”

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