SINGAPORE: An advertisement for an air conditioner has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), the country’s advertising standards body, due to misleading claims.

The ad featured influencer Xiaxue, implying that people who buy the energy-efficient air-conditioning unit can “save Earth.” This is an example of greenwashing, where a false impression or misleading information is conveyed about a product being environmentally sound.

ASAS’s decision came after a study discovered that over half of the environmental claims from companies on e-commerce sites were unclear and did not have enough detail to support their environmental claims.

The ad, which had aired on PRISM+’s Instagram account, has been taken down. In it, Xiaxue answers a phone call from “the President” asking for her aid to “save the earth”. The influencer, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, is seen donning heavy winter clothes, putting the temperature on her aircon unit to 23°C, and then placing a thick blanket over herself.

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The ad reads, “Save Earth and electricity with 5 ticks energy saving.”

“The (ASAS) council is of the position that these are not acceptable … to communicate that the product brings about energy savings, irrespective of whether they can be demonstrated, in view of the energy such appliances consume,” said Prof Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of ASAS, is quoted as saying in a CNA report.

A complaint over the advertisement had spurred the watchdog into action. ASAS said that the ad was misleading to consumers, and the company was asked to take it down.

Prof Ang said in a statement that the ad is “not acceptable” as air-conditioners, which consume a lot of energy, cannot be said to “save Earth” no matter how energy efficient they are.

ASAS has also told PRISM+ that its claims of energy-saving products should be proven through third-party testing “in conditions that are applicable to the local context.”

This is the first time an ad has been banned due to greenwashing, not only in Singapore but also in Asia. While there has been one other feedback about greenwashing since 2020, that incident was not found to have breached the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, which states that advertising should not mislead consumers.

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PRISM+ has said that the ad was featured from Oct 17 to Nov 19 and was removed before ASAS’ request to take it down on Dec 5.

A spokesman for the company told The Straits Times that the ad’s playful tone had not been meant to be taken literally.

“We believe that consumers should be discerning enough to know that regardless of how efficient an air-conditioner is, it is not going to be beneficial for the environment,” he said. /TISG

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