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If you are already competitive in terms of price, quality and performance, and you have a good start on you environmental excellence journey, you should be proud of your accomplishments and tell the world about them - and enhance your brand image and market share as well.

After all, if you read the trade journals or just surf the web, you will see articles such as

Now you are energized. Why should your organization not take advantage of your environmental improvement efforts. But then you stumble on sites like:

So why the contradiction?

The reasons may vary from questions that can have different meaning to different people to "spin" given to the results of a survey by individuals with a specific agenda. For example, the question "Has the economic downturn affect your purchases of green products?" yielded the results shown in the graphic:

An environmental agenda could interpret this by saying that the economic downturn has not affected 86% of the purchases of green products whereas the opposing agenda could say that the number was only 19%. And both do not provide any measure of the impact these have on the amount of purchases made. In addition to this is the question of what consumers say versus what they do. For example, Enviromedia reports that while 87 percent of people surveyed say they recycle, the Environmental Protection Agency reports just 33 percent of our waste is diverted from landfills. That is, many people feel they are expected to provide the "ecological" answer.

But, probably the primary reason is that people do not trust advertising alone:

This is further exacerbated by the fact that there are some 82 ecolabels of various types in use in North America alone.

So what should you do?

There are several guidelines that you can follow to build the consumers' confidence in your products (See FTC, Part 260 -- Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, 15 U.S.C. §§ 41-58), which include:

  • Be Honest

    "Avoid the tendency to exaggerate or overstate your claims. "Marketers should avoid implications of significant environmental benefits if the benefit is in fact negligible."

    "Claims that include a comparative statement should be presented in a manner that makes the basis for the comparison sufficiently clear to avoid consumer deception. In addition, the advertiser should be able to substantiate the comparison."
  • Be Clear Make claims that can be understood by all consumers

    The FTC traditionally has held "that in order to be effective, any qualifications or disclosures should be sufficiently clear, prominent and understandable to prevent deception. Clarity of language, relative type size and proximity to the claim being qualified, and an absence of contrary claims that could undercut effectiveness, will maximize the likelihood that the qualifications and disclosures are appropriately clear and prominent."
  • Be Precise Make specific claims that provide quantitative impacts

    "An environmental marketing claim should be presented in a way that makes clear whether the environmental attribute or benefit being asserted refers to the product, the product's packaging, a service or to a portion or component of the product, package or service."
  • Be relevant Make claims that have a positive impact on the environment

    There are always more environmental improvements that can be made to a product or service, and they are but one piece of a much larger environmental journey for society. An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. 'CFC-free' is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.
  • Be able to Substantiate all Claims Provide additional information for consumers in a place where they want it.

    FTC requires the "[i]n addition, any party making an express or implied claim that presents an objective assertion about the environmental attribute of a product, package or service must, at the time the claim is made, possess and rely upon a reasonable basis substantiating the claim. A reasonable basis consists of competent and reliable evidence. In the context of environmental marketing claims, such substantiation will often require competent and reliable scientific evidence, defined as tests, analyses, research, studies or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area, conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Further guidance on the reasonable basis standard is set forth in the Commission's 1983 Policy Statement on the Advertising Substantiation Doctrine. 49 Fed. Reg. 30999 (1984)."

    This additional information should be readily available to the consumers.

You can start your green marketing campaign by ensuring your green claims are credible. One way to do this by having your product certified that it was produced in an environmentally sound manner by one of the eco-label certifying organizations. The purpose of these labels is to helpconsumers make educated choices.


International Certification

  • The European Union Eco-Label Program covers a wide range of products and services, with further groups being continuously added.
  • Canada's EcoLogo Label program certifies products from the United States and Canada in over 120 categories
  • Germany's Blue Angel program provides ecolabeling for a wide variety products
  • Scandinavia's Nordic Swan program provides ecolabeling in over 66 product categories
  • Japan's EcoMark Program provides product certification and ecolabeling for several product types
  • Taiwan's Green Mark and Energy Label programs provide certification and ecolabeling for green and energy efficient products include corporate responsibility report and hierarchy corp image triple bl