The General Principals of Environmental Marketing Claims

Posted on Jun 1, 2012

The General Principals of Environmental Marketing Claims

The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims presents the Guides in two main categories:  General Principals, and Environmental Marketing Claims.  While the list of Environmental Marketing Claims is very specific to particular environmental claims, the General Principals apply broadly to all marketing around environmental claims, and is worth a closer look.   The General Principals cover four categories.  Here’s the list of the categories and a simplified guide to their meanings:

1. Qualifications and disclosures:

a. Is the wording and meaning sufficiently clear?

b. Is the qualification or disclosure prominent, in font size and proximity to the claim?

c. Do we not contradict our claim?

2. Distinction between benefit of product, package or service

a. Is it clear which has the benefit?

b. Is it a component or all of the product, package or service?

3. Overstatement of environmental attribute

a. Is benefit significant or negligible?

b. Are we overstating the attribute?  E.g. is “Now 50% More Recycled Content” really more, or is it 3% now, versus 2% before?

4. Comparative claims

a. Is it clear what you are comparing, enough to avoid consumer deception?

b. Can the comparison be substantiated?

As marketers of sustainable products and services, we are faced with the challenge of standing out from all the other competing offerings in the hearts and minds of our prospective customers.   We learned to accentuate the positive, the “new and improved” and make lemonade whenever needed.  The Guides focus on clarity for customers.  They are a great check against allowing our impulse towards “New and Improved” to lead us into vague claims and into green washing.

The Green Guides include a terrific set of examples for reference.  Be sure to check them out!

I am looking forward to speaking on a panel at AltBuild Expo this week, on the topic of Understanding Marketing and Sales for New Homes with fellow panelists from Build It Green.   Are you planning to attend?  If so, leave me a comment! – Maureen


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