Singapore watchdog bans aircon ad claiming it can ‘save the Earth’ after greenwash complaint, in first ruling of its kind in Asia

The decision by the Advertising Standards of Singapore comes a month after a study found that more than half of environmental claims made by brands on e-commerce sites in the city-state were vague with insufficient detail to support environmental claims.

An advertisement for Prism+ airconditioners
An advertising campaign for Prism+ airconditioners featuring Singaporean influencer Xiaxue. The campaign has been removed after Singapore's ad watchdog ruled that it misled consumers. Images: Prism+

An advertisement by a Singapore consumer electronics company that claims consumers can “save Earth” by buying its energy-efficient airconditioners has been banned by the country’s advertising watchdog for greenwashing.

In a video version of a social media campaign for Prism+ Zero Smart Aircon units, which has since been taken down after the ban, local influencer Xiaxue, real name Wendy Cheng, is called by a fictional president who asks for her help to “save the earth”. In response, Xiaxue puts on winter clothing, sets the airconditioner to 23°C, and snuggles under a blanket. “Save Earth and electricity with 5 ticks energy saving,” reads the caption. The 5 ticks refers to Singapore’s classification system for the energy efficiency of electrical appliances, with 5 ticks being the highest rating.

In response to a complaint about the campaign, Singapore’s advertising watchdog ruled that the video misled consumers and Prism+ was asked to remove the ad, which has been running on Instagram. The advertiser has complied.

The ruling marks the first time that an advertising campaign in Singapore, or anywhere in Asia, has been banned for greenwashing.

In a statement shared with Eco-Business, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) said the ad was “not acceptable” for claiming that energy-guzzling airconditioners can save the Earth, irrespective of how much energy this model can save, and was misleading.

ASAS ruled that the ad flouted Singapore’s advertising code, in particular a section on “truthful presentation”, which demands that advertising does not “mislead in any way by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or omission.”

The watchdog also told the company, which was founded in 2017 by Singaporean Jonathan Tan, that any energy savings claims should be substantiated by getting its products and other comparable models made by competitors tested by a third-party “in conditions that are applicable to the local context.”

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