7 Tips for (Truthful) Green Marketing: Beware the Panda

Choosing not to heed advice on green marketing could see companies fined up to $1.1 million AUD. So, think carefully about badging your offering with icons of trees, planets, pandas, dolphins, etc. And if you label your product or service with the following terms, expect the Australian consumer watchdog to be looking over your shoulder, to ensure you substantiate your claim: 'environmentally friendly', 'environmentally safe', 'energy efficient', 'recyclable', 'carbon neutral', 'renewable' or 'green' energy. The ACCC assert that "Consumers are entitled to rely on any environmental claims you make and to expect these claims to be truthful."

The other week the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), who have a responsibility in ensuring compliance with fair trading and consumer protection laws, released a 24 page document entitled Green marketing and the Trade Practices Act. They say that it aims to "assist manufacturers, suppliers, advertisers and others to assess the strength of any environmental claims they make and to improve the accuracy and usefulness to consumers of their labelling, packaging and advertising." Their seven key guidelines after the fold.When making environmental claims on your products or in your advertising, you should check the following:

• Avoid using terms like 'safe' and 'friendly' and unqualified pictures or graphics. At best they are unhelpful and encourage skepticism; at worst they are misleading.

• Spell out exactly what is beneficial about a product in plain language that consumers can understand.

• Link the environmental benefit to a specific part of the product or its production process, such as extraction, transportation, manufacture, use, packaging or disposal.

• Make sure any claims you make about your product can be substantiated. Think about how you would answer a query regarding the environmental benefits you are claiming about your product. For example, what scientific authority could you use to justify the basis of your claim?

• Explain how a product's characteristic is beneficial to the environment. For example, explain that a phosphate-free product is less damaging in river systems because phosphate promotes algal growth, which can clog up rivers.

• Avoid giving the impression that your product is completely environmentally benign if it is not.

• Use the claim only in an appropriate context or setting. For example, do not claim that a product is not tested on animals if it is a product that would never be tested on animals anyway.

:: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

See also Woolies' Eco Claims for Toilet Paper Have a Bad Smell

And this adjunct to the story, from the Brisbane Times: "The ACCC is taking civil action against Holden GM, supplier of Saab cars in Australia, over claims it made last year that 17 native trees would be planted for every vehicle sold, which would offset carbon dioxide emissions for the life of the car. The ACCC said that the tree-planting would only offset emissions for a single year and that the claims wrongly implied that Saab was a greener make than other cars."

Tags: Advertising | Australia | Carbon Neutral | Carbon Offsets | Corporate Responsibility | Dolphins | Endangered Species | Energy Efficiency

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