Pitfalls and opportunities, Part Deux

Pitfalls and opportunities, Part Deux

My last post covered the Dean Foods announcement about their Horizon Natural line…this post covers another, quieter announcement from last week:  Green Seal announced they’re rolling out a certification program for personal care products.

This is a good move, and I’m starting to think Green Seal may be the certification program to watch in the coming years. They have now established standards for 40 product groupings in seven categories, ranging from paints & coatings to alternative fuel vehicles and, now, to soaps & shower products. Their process is fairly stringent, manufacturers seem to respect them, and they appear to be in this for the long haul.  They’re also going after the right product categories.  60% of the population told us in our Eco Pulse study they’re looking for greener products.  When we asked in what categories they’re looking for greener options, personal care products was the number three category, chosen by a little over half the population.

Green Seal’s challenge will be brand awareness.  We’ve tested Green Seal alongside multiple other green labels in several focus groups now, and consumers simply don’t recognize it and have never heard of it.  If Green Seal wants to be THE green seal they’ll have to launch a full-on marketing effort and deal with the David and Goliath situation they’re in against much larger, more recognized brand names that are beginning to play in this space, like UL and Good Housekeeping.

And, sadly, they’re going to have to deal with lots of pretenders that erode consumer trust in any seal. I literally got an email in my inbox a few days ago with the subject line “New Accredited Green Self-Certification Program.” The email went on to try and convince me that they, in fact, weren’t that new– they’re “the leader with over 45,000 certifications in place.”  That may well be true, because if you click on the link to their Web site, plunk down $189.95 and fill in a little info — poof — you can have your product certified and get a Web site you can edit yourself to tell your green story any way you want!


All legitimate certification programs will have to deal with this sort of thing and build consumer confidence. And the winning certification programs will be those with the most stringent, believable, transparent standards and the greatest marketing muscle. One won’t work without the other.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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