A new report from UL Environment and Shelton Group sheds light on this question.
We’ve expounded on the perils of greenwashing and the benefits of product certifications in this space on more than one occasion – with good reason. The FTC beefed up its Green Guides in 2012 and rededicated itself to protecting the public from companies making unsubstantiated claims about a product’s greenness. It can and has taken enforcement actions against offending companies and levied some substantial fines.
And it’s not just the FTC companies have to worry about. Various consumer and watchdog groups are filing lawsuits grounded in the FTC guides and FDA labeling requirements. Witness the “All Natural” class action chaos and the Kroger Simple Truth chicken brouhaha.
So at Shelton Group, we’ve never stopped talking to clients about greenwashing and product certifications. However, in light of some new research, we’re bringing the subject to this forum once again.
Soon to be released by UL Environment, Under the Lens: Claiming Green – The influence of green product claims on purchase intent and brand perception reports on a study that explored consumers’ perceptions of green claims and produced some clear, actionable insights that could help boost your brand.
Greenwashing is risky business – that’s a given. By now it’s also given that a product’s sustainability story, communicated effectively, can do much to sway purchase decisions and improve your corporate reputation. However, the devil – and the rewards – of green product claims are in the details, and it’s those details that this report dives into.
The different types of green product claims that now pervade the marketplace form a spectrum that ranges from outright untruths to factual statements certified by independent third parties. In between these lie an expanse of “problematic” claims, a collective name for confusing, vague and unsubstantiated claims, and “legitimate” claims – valid claims that can be substantiated but are not third-party certified.
Through a poll of more than 1,000 consumers, the study, conducted by Shelton Group, tested a multitude of specific claims from the home improvement, electronics, personal care and cleaning products sectors in head-to-head scenarios to gauge how they affect purchase behaviors and brand perception. The goal was to determine which claims have the most positive impact on purchase decisions and brand perception, which support a price premium, which are most confusing, and which can actually backfire on you.
It should come as no surprise that across the board, certified claims significantly outperformed all others. It also makes sense that overall, consumers today are a bit savvier than they used to be. They tend to recognize meaningless and unsubstantiated claims like “eco-friendly” and “cruelty-free.” But there are myriad other findings in the report that you may not have expected – like just how confusing consumers find perfectly valid claims about VOCs and “recycled content” and the clear correlation that appeared between confusing claims and negative brand impressions.
Other parts of the survey focused on different certifications – which have the most influence on purchase decisions and which add the most perceived value to a product.
UL has a 120-year history of safeguarding the public and issues some of the most trusted certifications out there. Through this report and a family of newer certification and validation services, its UL Environment business is helping people navigate through the current fog of green claims.
The full report will be available next week, and there’s a sneak peek in the form of an executive summary that you can download right now from a website we created to help UL get the study’s findings out there. While you’re there, you can put in a request for a link to the full report when it’s ready and sign up for a webcast being held on Tuesday, November 18, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. I highly recommend that you do just that. None of this will cost you a cent, but what you learn could add some real “green” to your bottom line.