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Funeral providers slammed for green claims

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints about a prepaid funeral provider and a coffin maker regarding their ‘green’ credentials.

Golden Leaves and JC Atkinson & Son both made claims about their eco-friendly coffins in their advertising.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) started regulating prepaid funeral providers on 29 July 2022. Golden Leaves received FCA authorisation the same day. It sells prepaid funerals and uses coffins manufactured by JC Atkinson & Son.

A website for Golden Leaves for funeral provision, seen in November 2021 included a box on the homepage with the text “How can I have a green funeral?”, “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 described its wooden and MDF coffins as “eco-friendly” and “green”, and made references to a “green” and “environmentally-friendly” funeral.

But the ASA challenged whether the claims were misleading and could be substantiated.

Golden Leaves said it provided a life cycle analysis that had been carried out to assess the environmental impact of those coffins to support the claims.

But the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims ““Explore our selection of coffins to include in an eco-friendly funeral in the UK” and “Manufactured by JC Atkinson, the UK’s premier eco-friendly coffin manufacturer, you are assured that you are purchasing quality green coffins” to mean that the coffins that they were buying would have either no impact or an overall beneficial impact on the environment.

The regulator ruled that because the evidence provided didn’t demonstrate that there was no negative impact on the environment over the full life cycle of the coffins, the ad was misleading.

It also upheld a complaint against JC Atkinson & Son regarding its marketing of coffins which it claimed to be “Eco concerned with protecting and preserving the natural environment”.

After selecting “Eco” and other options on JC Atkinson’s website, the site displayed a selection of coffins for consumers, including the “Reflections catalogue” which stated, “The eco-friendly Reflections range is for those wanting a truly personalised tribute”.

A rival coffin maker, LifeArt Coffins Ltd, challenged whether the claims that wooden or MDF coffins were “eco-friendly” or could protect and preserve the natural environment were misleading and could be substantiated.

JC Atkinson & Son said it would remove the claims that their coffins were “eco-friendly.” However, the firm considered that the claims could be substantiated.

The complaint was upheld by the ASA. It said: “The life cycle analysis provided by the advertiser assessed the cremation impact and particulate emissions of a range of coffins when burned. It also assessed the total impact of the manufacture and distribution of different types of coffin. The life cycle analysis did contain information about which types of coffin might have a lower impact than others. However, it did not conclude that any kind of burial or cremation would have a neutral or positive environmental benefit.

“Because the evidence that had been provided to us did not substantiate explicit or implied claims that the wooden and MDF coffins had no negative impact on the environment over their full life cycle, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

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