In the wake murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the demonstrations that followed, brands pledged to support anti-racism and solidarity with the Black community. Some companies professed that they would make large donations to social justice organizations, leading commentators to ponder whether brands were “woke washing.” At the end of Black History Month, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) announced that it investigated two companies making express claims committing to sizable charitable contributions to ensure that those claims were substantiated. See Niantic, Inc. (Advertising by Niantic Labs), Report #7037, NAD/CARU Case Reports (February 2022) and DoorDash, Inc. (Advertising by DoorDash, Inc.), Report #7036, NAD/CARU Case Reports (February 2022).

Software developer Niantic Labs and food ordering and delivery platform DoorDash pledged to make seven figure donations to Black Lives Matter and other social justice charities and organizations. NAD made clear that claims regarding a company’s commitment to social justice are advertising claims that require substantiation. As NAD explained, such commitments have the purpose of inducing sales from consumers seeking to engage with brands aligned with their values on social responsibility or specific issues and could steer consumers away from competitors that have not made similar commitments.

After concluding that pledges of support for social justice initiatives are advertising claims, NAD investigated whether the claims were supported. Both companies submitted documentation, including invoices and affidavits showing when and where these donations were made. NAD determined that the information provided demonstrated that both companies fulfilled their promises to make sizable donations in support of the black community.

These recent monitoring cases are a reminder that companies seeking to highlight their commitment to social justice are making advertising claims that require substantiation.