Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication on Greenfield Creations Ltd
Greenfield Creations Ltd
13 June 2012
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated of which both were Upheld.
Claims on www.GreenfieldCreationsCoffins.co.uk, stated “The Greenfield Creations cardboard coffin is a strong, sturdy, but lightweight coffin which has been developed to meet the needs of those who require an environmentally friendly and biodegradable coffin. Over the last few years demand for ‘greener’, and more cost effective, funerals has increased dramatically”. Further text stated “Cardboard coffins are load tested up to 23 stone”.
Colourful Coffins challenged whether the claims:
1. “environmentally friendly and biodegradable coffin”; and
2. “Cardboard coffins are load tested up to 23 stone”
were misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Greenfield Creations said they were willing to make changes to their advertising. They stated, however, they had not realised their product did not fall within the ASA’s definition of “environmentally friendly”. They said they considered their product consisted of the cardboard, glue and tape used to make the coffin. They said all those elements were biodegradable and sent specifications from their suppliers stating that was the case. They said the handles and liner for their coffins were “accessories” that were made from cotton or natural rope and therefore also biodegradable. On that basis, they considered that their coffin was biodegradable. They submitted general details about the company and the coffins as well as information from the manufacturers of the materials they used to make the cardboard coffin, liner, and handles. They also stated the only non-biodegradable accessories available were brass-effect handles and a lining that was used for cremations.
2. Greenfield Creations provided information and video footage regarding a load test on a cardboard coffin that took place at the National Funeral Exhibition in 2009 and 2011. They said the test was representative of four funeral directors shouldering a coffin and the test had been seen by a large number of funeral practitioners.
The ASA acknowledged Greenfield Creations were willing to amend the ad and noted their argument that their product should be defined only as the cardboard, glue and tape. However, we considered consumers would understand the claim to refer to the whole product, including all fixtures, such as handles and liner. We noted the specifications Greenfield Creations submitted in relation to the component materials, but considered the evidence was not adequate to support the “environmentally friendly” claim in relation to the full life cycle of the product, even for just the cardboard, glue and tape. We also noted we had not seen adequate evidence to demonstrate that the entire product was biodegradable. We therefore concluded that the claim “environmentally friendly and biodegradable coffin” had not been substantiated and the ad was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 11.1 and 11.4 (Environmental claims).
We noted the information provided by Greenfield Creations regarding a test they had conducted on their product during two exhibitions. The information consisted of photographs of the product being tested at the exhibitions and an invoice for 150 kg of gravel. We also noted, however, we had not seen any evidence that the product had, for example, been subject to any controlled independent tests and considered the substantiation submitted was not adequate to support the claim. We concluded that the claim “load tested up to 23 stone” had not been substantiated and the ad was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Greenfield Creations not to state or imply that their product was environmentally friendly, unless they held substantiation for the claim based on the full life cycle of the product. We also told them to ensure they held adequate evidence to support all objective claims in future advertising.
Response, action and clarification from Greenfield Creations Ltd
What a joy and great learning curve it has been working with these organisations…
“Environmentally friendly and biodegradable coffin”
I always understood the term ‘environmentally friendly’ to mean – causes ‘minimal harm’ or ‘less harm’ to the environment but the ASA relevant code rule (see below) needs to incorporate the ‘full life cycle’ of the product:
11.4 Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product might be justifiable. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product’s life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact.
We are still waiting for information from the ASA advisory team to clarify if, in fact, ANY product could be deemed “environmentally friendly”. We have racked our brains in the office, while awaiting the information and can only come up with an undisturbed mushroom that grows and dies. If anyone out there knows of an actual “environmentally friendly product”, I would love to hear about it.
Regarding biodegradability – The ASA’s definition of a coffin would include all fittings such as the lining and handles. Therefore we will present a complete breakdown for ALL choices of order combination. All % examples have been based on weight of product/product parts. For example:
Brown economy coffin with cotton strap handles & cotton calico liner would be –
100% biodegradable cardboard in product = 99.88% biodegradable.
Biodegradable content of total product is = 99.83% biodegradable.
Content of total product that is recycled = 76.91% recycled.
Brown economy coffin with brass effect handles & cremfilm liner would be –
100% biodegradable cardboard in product = 88.98% biodegradable.
Biodegradable content of total product is = 88.93% biodegradable
Content of total product that is recycled = 68.51% recycled.
“Cardboard coffins are load tested up to 23 stone”
This has been excellent for us and a big thank you goes to Colourful Coffins Ltd…
We had previously demonstrated a load capability of 23 stone at many Funeral exhibitions in front of hundreds of Funeral Practitioners over the years but the ASA needed an independent load test to satisfy the complaint.
Consequently we had an independent test facility undertake a new, controlled, load test… and guess what? At 49.5 stone the coffin was still capable of holding more load but the testing bench which represented 4 ‘bearers’ could take no more. New info we can now use to promote our Cardboard coffins, if we so wish:
“Cardboard coffins are load tested up to 49.5 stone”
The GFG notes: Environmental credentials are important to consumers. Both Greenfield Creations and Colourful Coffins have both now been brought to book in the matter of claims to the environmental purity of their product, and both have emerged from ASA adjudication more or less vindicated. We don’t doubt the good faith of either party. In the matter of the load bearing capacity of cardboard coffins, it is absolutely vital for a cardboard coffin manufacturer to be able to demonstrate that their product is fit for purpose given the tendency of many funeral directors to talk their clients out of choosing one on the grounds that their ‘loved one’ may burst through the bottom on the way to the catafalque. The load bearing capacity of the Greenfield coffin emerges from stern examination with positively heroic credentials far exceeding original claims. The ‘problem’ that neither party addresses, interestingly, is the waterproof credentials of their product. It is not unknown for a funeral director to cast doubt on the rainworthiness of a cardboard coffin.
Of the two companies, only Greenfield sells its coffins direct to the public and, what’s more, the GFG endorses and recommends the Greenfield coffin, so our credibility is at stake here, too. Our belief in the integrity of Greenfield remains entirely unshaken as a result of this adjudication, as does our admiration. Greenfield was the first to bring colourful coffins to market in the UK, a courageous thing to do when the acceptability of their product was by no means assured. They are pioneers in the field, trailblazers, something which deserves the highest respect. They are also incredibly nice people, a matter of equal importance to us.