Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

It Isn’t Always So “Friendly” Being Green

Don’t join the growing number of marketers throwing around phrases like "environmentally friendly,” “Earth friendly," and "ozone friendly." While such claims have a calming ring, they can be very misleading. The simple fact is, there is no such thing as an "eco-friendly" product; all use resources and create waste to some degree. To avoid such confusion in the marketplace, the Federal Trade Commission introduced its Environmental Marketing Guidelines in 1992. Some key takeaways:

—Be specific. Marketers are liable not only for inaccurate statements but also for consumers' misinterpretations of their claims, as Shell recently discovered. So, don't just say "recycled content" or show a chasing-arrows recycling logo (both of which could signal "100% recycled content"). Instead, say "carton made from 100% recycled paperboard," or "minimum 30% post-consumer fiber."

—Don't overstate. Biota's water bottle was theoretically biodegradable, but not compostable in backyard composters or even many municipal composting facilities. Bad press from this claim helped sink the company. (Watch out for Brooks Sports' "biodegradable" footwear insole, which looks poised to make the same mistake.

—Qualify terms such as "refillable," "energy-efficient," and "reusable." Answer the key questions: How much? For how long? By whom? Where? Compared to what? Avoid saying "recyclable" if products or packaging are theoretically recyclable but not collected by municipal recycling programs.

The next time you feel the itch to get a bit too "friendly" with your environmental claims, know that other marketing professionals are taking note.

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