The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accepted an undertaking from V8 Supercars Australia Pty Ltd, concerning claims it made about offsetting carbon emissions from its V8 car racing series.

In 2007, V8 Supercars introduced its Racing Green Program. It announced that it would plant 10,000 native trees to fully offset the carbon emissions from the V8 Championship Series, including emissions from the races themselves, transport of the racing teams, air travel to the events and other activities.

The ACCC was concerned that the claim suggested or implied that the trees would quickly absorb the carbon emissions, when in fact it is likely that it would take several decades for the trees to absorb the emissions from one year's racing. 

"If businesses want to make claims that planting trees will offset carbon emissions, they must explain that this will only occur over the full life of the trees," ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said. "Further, when seedlings are first planted the amount of carbon that they absorb is likely to be very small.  It is not until the trees are fully grown that they can maximise carbon absorption."

V8 Supercars acknowledged the ACCC's concerns that the claim that the emissions would be neutralised and completely offset by the tree planting may have been misleading or deceptive and therefore may have breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

V8 Supercars has provided the ACCC with a court-enforceable undertaking that:

  • any future claims that it publishes about 'green marketing' will be first considered by a solicitor with experience in trade practices law to ensure that it complies with the Act
  • any future claims that it makes about trees being planted to offset carbon emissions will include an explanation about the time before those emissions will be offset, and
  • an acknowledgement of the ACCC's concerns and the undertaking will be placed on its Racing Green pages of the V8 Supercars website.

Mr Samuel said that the ACCC has been sufficiently concerned with aspects of green marketing that it has produced a booklet, Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act, that is designed to educate businesses about making environmental claims, including a checklist for marketers. The booklet and other material can be found on the ACCC's website.

"While the ACCC supports businesses taking steps to reduce any negative effects on the environment, they do need to make sure that any representations that are made are correct and easily understood."