Back in July and August of last year, as part of its Grrrrrreen campaign, Saab touted the environmental credentials of its vehicle range and its carbon offset program. Unfortunately, the ACCC did not take kindly to some of Saab's wording and took action against the GM subsidiary in January of this year for misleading buyers.
Saab was subsequently carpeted, and 'has been working with the ACCC' (read: taking a pounding) to clear up the mess. Saab has now announced that the matter has been resolved. Yowch.
The problem for Saab resulted from some poorly-chosen wording in its advertising which the ACCC felt misled buyers into believing that Saab's range would be carbon-neutral for the life of the vehicle. At the centre of Saab's campaign was its commitment to plant 17 native trees for each new, approved used, and demonstrator vehicle sold. The 17 trees planted would offset the carbon emissions of the purchased vehicle for one year only and not the life of the vehicle - unfortunately, it didn't quite read that way.
Saab noticed the error back in August '07 and took action, of its own initiative, to rectify the advertisements and provide revised publications. This occurred before the intervention of the ACCC - but the horse had already bolted. The ACCC takes a dim view of so-called "green-wash" (and there's a lot of it about) and took Saab to task.
Director of GM Premium Brands, Mr Parveen Batish, said Saab was pleased to be able to resolve this matter:
“We take our responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously and we welcome the ACCC’s acknowledgment in the settlement documents that we did not intend to mislead consumers about the carbon dioxide offset program,” Mr Batish said.
In settling with the ACCC, GM has agreed not to republish the original advertisement, to train all Saab marketing staff in relation to misleading and deceptive conduct in the context of ‘green’ marketing claims and to review this training as part of a scheduled review of its trade practices compliance program later this year.
Going one step further, Saab is planning to plant an additional 12,500 trees which will offset an estimated 10 year's worth of carbon emissions from its vehicles. This brings the total to 47,500 new native trees to be planted, when combined with planned and current plantations.
As the only provider of E85 compliant vehicles in Australia at present, Saab is serious about minimising its environmental impact. With a new commitment to additional plantations, Saab will be hoping it has minimised the harm from this case and retained the confidence of 'green' buyers.