The Swiss advertising regulator, the Commission for Loyalty, has ruled that FIFA’s claims that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was the first carbon neutral World Cup were unsubstantiated and misleading. The claim was widely criticised at the time. In fact, it was such a bold claim that it is entirely possible that nobody was misled by it simply because nobody believed it.

The claim was purportedly substantiated on the basis of a carbon offset scheme. FIFA told the commission that the carbon generated by the construction of the stadia and other infrastructure would be offset by activities such as the planting of gardens nearby. The Commission, however, has shown FIFA’s claims the red card.

“In the view of the chamber, the question of whether the promised compensation is truly realistic remains unclear,” the commission’s verdict said. It continued: “Even though [Fifa] repeatedly hints that it will fully offset the emissions to be definitively calculated at a later date, it is unable to provide proof that the estimated emissions have been offset. In addition, it is unclear whether [Fifa’s] offsetting measures comply with Swiss standards, eg the complete and sustainable removal of C02 from the atmosphere.

“It is recommended that the defendant refrain in future from making the disputed allegations, in particular that the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar would be climate- and C02-neutral, unless it can provide, at the time of disclosure, full proof of the calculation, using generally accepted methods, of all C02 emissions caused by the tournament and proof of the full offsetting of these C02 emissions.”

This decision is the latest indication that offset schemes are being subjected to greater scrutiny when used as substantiation for sustainability claims. Ironically, however, the Advertising Standards Authority ruling against Shell published yesterday did not uphold the complaints against the energy giant’s green energy tariff which also relied on offsetting. Shell had stated that “Shell Energy’s renewable electricity is supplied by the National Grid and certified by Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin, matching electricity bought with the equivalent amount from 100% renewable sources”.

The ASA stated that “The customer data that Shell had provided substantiated that the number of homes subscribed to their 100% renewable energy tariff in each region exceeded the claimed figure. Ofgem’s REGO certified that energy purchased via Shell’s 100% renewable electricity tariff was exclusively derived from renewable sources. For those reasons, we considered that the ads were not likely to mislead in relation to the number of households that purchased 100% renewable electricity from Shell.”

So it was the back of the net for Shell’s offset claim, just like Jarrod Bowen’s 90th minute winner for West Ham in the Europa Conference League Final in Prague last night. And that wasn’t offside either. 

Congratulations to all our readers who are fans of the Hammers. Both of them. Giles, that means you and your lad.