Tell the truth

There are a couple of good articles out today (and, in full disclosure, I’m quoted in one of them), about false green claims:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/environment/2009-06-21-green_N.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/21/green-environment-ecology-congress-us-supermarkets

These all tell the same story that we’re seeing in our 2009 Eco Pulse study, which is being released today:

  • Consumers are searching for greener products (60% of the population, in fact)
  • Most believe companies adopt environmentally friendly practices only for marketing/sales purposes (only 7% believe companies go green because the owners/shareholders actually care about the environment)
  • In the absence of impartial, third-party guidance about what’s actually green, though, consumers are turning to the people whose motives they don’t trust for confirmation about the green-ness of any given product:  the manufacturers.  35% say they figure out if a product is green by reading labels/looking at the ingredients listed on a package.

So, clearly, before the “green movement” can really fully take hold as a way of life, this is an issue that must be resolved.  Consumers, in the face of distrust and confusion, do nothing.  So though they may want to go green, they won’t turn that desire into action unless they feel certain they’re making the right choice.

Until we have clear labeling, verification and regulation of green claims, manufacturers will serve themselves well to keep their green claims simple, clear and truthful.  Don’t overstate what makes a product green — just tell the truth.  That will make it easier for a consumer to believe what you’re saying and make good choices.  If that’s not motivation enough, consider this:  40% of the population says they’d like stop buying products from a manufacturer who advertised those products as green and then received a government fine for environmental infractions.  And 36% say they’d stop buying the products and tell their friends and family to stop buying them too.  That’s up 10 points from last year.

That’s a powerful motivator to tell the truth.

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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