France: Adverts to be more environmentally positive?

Advertisers need to re-imagine their sector as a force for environmental change, according to a proposed new law in France, with suggested measures giving local politicians more power to control advertising, and a ban on the promotion of “toxic” products.

10 July 2020
An empty bilboard. A proposed French law suggests advertising should be used to protect the environment.EDS has suggested making it a legal requirement that the question "En avez-vous vraiment besoin?" (Do you really need this?) is added to all advertisements.
By Joanna York

Political group Ecologie, Démocracie et Solidarité (EDS) have put forward a proposition for a new law in the Assemblée Nationale, co-president Matthieu Orphelin announced today (July 10).

According to the group, advertisers channel an estimated €34 billion into the French marketing industry each year. They say that this represents a “powerful lever” which should be redirected “in service of the fight against climate change and restraint in using resources”.

More powers to regulate advertising

The proposed law suggests making advertisers a driving force in environmental change by “diminishing the incompatibility we see today between some adverts and national objectives for environmental change”.

One method of doing this would be to give local elected representatives powers to regulate advertising in order to “protect lifestyle, the environment and health”.

To this end, EDS suggests giving mayors powers to ban adverts in their communes, as well as the right to ban new digital screens for advertising and backlit advertising.

Read more: French MP calls for ban on digital advert screens

Promoting environmental products

Mr Orphelin told news source FranceInfo that he wanted to progressively ban advertising for products which are the “most toxic” for the environment, such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and even household electronics.

In their place, EDS has suggested the creation of a fund to support “responsible advertising” that would make €300 million available each year. This money would finance the promotion of sustainable consumerism and eco-friendly products.

Mr Orphelin suggested that, when it came to advertising cars, experts from environmental agency l'Ademe (l'Agence de la Transition Energétique) could define the criteria for which cars should and shouldn’t be advertised, according to their effect on the environment.

Air travel is also being targeted by the law, with the promotion of train travel suggested as an alternative for rail journeys of less than four hours and 30 minutes.

The French government has already placed a ban on domestic flights if a train journey of less than two and a half hours exists for the same route.

Read more: France domestic flight ban will apply to low-cost airlines

Measures to reduce 'over-consumption'

To reduce over-consumption, EDS suggests making it a legal requirement that the question "En avez-vous vraiment besoin?" (Do you really need this?) is added to all advertisements, and shown before payment for online purchases. 

The proposed law also suggests putting a stop to adverts that play automatically online, and letterbox advertising using unaddressed flyers.

Advertising 'revolution' needed

Mr Orphelin defined advertising as “exercising a psychological action over the public for commercial gain, making products known, inciting people to acquire things”. He said that until the advertising industry was “revolutionised” it could not participate in environmental change. 

Speaking about the proposed new law, he said: “Let’s be the first country to get strongly behind advertising being used to promote restraint, in service of [environmental] transition. We’re going to innovate in this area with all involved parties.”

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