Eco-friendly coffin claims banned by advertising watchdog

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Pallbearers carry an MDF casket adorned with flowers at a funeral ceremonyImage source, Getty Images
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Two companies advertising 'green' funeral packages have been banned for misleading consumers

Two funeral providers have been banned from repeating claims about eco-friendly funeral packages by the UK's advertising watchdog.

Golden Leaves and JC Atkinson & Son had advertised "green" funeral packages.

They misleadingly suggested that the MDF coffins and funeral plans being offered were more eco-friendly than alternatives, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found.

Golden Leaves said it did not agree with the findings.

Both companies had advertised "green", "environmentally-friendly" or "eco-friendly" funerals - that could include wooden or MDF coffins.

"Choosing an environmentally-friendly funeral not only assists your loved ones, but also makes a positive statement of intent to help preserve the world in which we live", Golden Leaves had advertised.

On the JC Atkinson & Son website, after selecting "eco", consumers had access to a selection of coffins including a range called "reflections". It read: "The eco-friendly Reflections range is for those wanting a truly personalised tribute."

The ASA and LifeArt Coffins challenged whether the "eco-friendly" claims were misleading and could be sustained.

JC Atkinson & Son said it would remove claims that the coffins were "eco-friendly", but added that it believed they could be substantiated.

In relation to the company's advert, the ASA said that because the evidence provided "did not demonstrate" that there was no negative impact to the environment over the full life cycle of the coffins "we concluded that the ad was misleading".

Golden Leaves said the claims that its funerals and coffins were "green" should be understood as part of a whole funeral plan package. The company said the package was designed to promote an environmentally conscious message.

This included promotional material, the sustainable nature of the coffin types used and carbon offsetting strategies such as replacement tree planting and donations to rainforest conservation.

In relation to Golden Leaves, the ASA said consumers would understand terms such as "green" within the ad to be "absolute claims about the whole life cycle of the funeral" and said evidence provided did not prove that purchasing the funeral plan "would have a net neutral or positive impact on the environment".

As a result of this, "we [ASA] concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading".

The ASA informed the business that the ad "must not appear in its current form".

"We also told them to ensure that the basis for the environmental claims were made clear to consumers", added the advertising watchdog.

Responding to the ban, Golden Leaves said it did not agree with the finding, but it had decided to remove the product range in question "until further research" could be conducted.