Archive for TerraChoice Environmental Marketing

Wake up stupid, your green intentions mean nothing if you don’t follow through

Posted in sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 3, 2011 by marketingheart

Comsumers, damn them, can be so frustrating. Boy, I feel like a politician talking abut voters!

A study, by Macquarie University identified a big discrrepancy between 2000 consumers‘ intent to purchase eco-friendly electronics products – including televisions, air-conditioners, washing machines and digital cameras – and their actual purchasing decisions.

Depressingly, while 75 % of consumers thought about environmentally freindly products before buying, only 20% actually purchased goods with eco credentials. Well-known sustainability champion Professor Tim Flannery, commented “Awareness of environmental issues is extremely high and our next challenge is to turn that into everyday action.”

Other key findings from the study included: * Eco features accounted for only between 11 to 20 per cent of purchase intent, depending on the type of product being considered.  * Eco features were most valued by younger (18-24) and older consumers (over-55), while they were much less valued by those in the 33-44 age group (WAKE UP PEOPLE).

Panasonic estimates it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions from a household by 65 per cent in three-to-five years by increasing the energy efficiency of devices and reducing the power consumption of the entire house. You’d think that’d be enough to persuade people.

What’s realy concerning is the message this sends to manufacturers. Steve Rust, MD of Panasonic Australia, said the results were disheartening for  companies who had invested in developing better environmentally performing products.  “The single best thing we can do to encourage more businesses to adopt better environmental behaviour is to make it more commercially attractive. We simply have to work out what is stopping consumers from buying green and overcome it.”

Greenwashing (inaccurately describing products as green) has been blamed for consumer scepticism. More than 98% of supposedly “natural” products in the US were found in one study by TerraChoice, an environmental consulting firm, to be making potentially false or misleading claims. The study of nearly 4,000 consumer products discovered unverifiable information and blatant lies regarding their claim to be 100% natural, all natural, organic, or otherwise environmental friendly. The complete findings of the 2009 TerraChoice study can be found here. I’ll post more on Greenwashing later.

Having blogged here about the delicate balance between green and commercial interests,  in case you can’t tell, I found the Australian study really frustrating.

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98% of ‘green’ products are a con; caveat emptor

Posted in food, government, Marketing, advertising, ethics, packaging, sustainability with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by marketingheart

Could this be the very height of cynicism, the dark heart of the packaged goods industry: More than 98% of supposedly “natural” products in the US are making potentially false or misleading claims, according to TerraChoice, an environmental consulting firm following a survey of nearly 4,000 consumer products which recorded unverifiable information and blatant lies.

Once again, the poor old consumers need to go on the defensive; British consumer spend on environmentally green goods increased five-fold from £1.4bn in 1999 to £7bn in 2009 – and unsurprisingly there has also been a corresponding rise in confusing advertising labels as marketers rush to cash in. Green, natural, eco-friendly, recyclable, fragrance free….can you believe what you read? Around the world, government agencies regulating the labeling and advertising of goods are struggling with what the term “natural” actually means.  This has led to there being very little guidance on the use of “natural” on labels and in advertising.

TerraChoice claims the 7 most common misleading and deceptive tactics used by manufacturers and marketers are::

  1. The Hidden Trade-off suggests that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest.
  2. No Proof when environmental assertions are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification. For example facial tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any supporting details.
  3. Vagueness when a marketing claim is so lacking in specifics it becomes meaningless. ‘”All-natural” is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. “All natural” isn’t necessarily “green.”
  4. False Labels when there is a false suggestion or certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a legitimate green certification process – often the company’s own in-house environmental program for which there is no explanation.
  5. Irrelevance for instance the claim that a product is “CFC-free,”  since CFCs are banned by law.
  6. Lesser of Two Evils ie ‘green’ claims for a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic cigarettes are an example of this phenomenon.
  7. Lying is when environmental claims are outright false. One common example is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified.
  8. Selective greening. A company may market a valid green product whilst also being involved in a range of other environmentally damaging products or activities…note really deceptive as far as the validly green product goes, but does this company have the right to green claims?

The poor old consumer looking to find the 2% of products that are actually natural has some work to do. And here is how you can start:

  • Don’t trust the label as fact.  Understand that just cause it says natural, does not mean it really is.
  • Shop with a discerning eye.  If it is too good to be true it most likely is, and the claim is just advertising hype.
  • Read the ingredients carefully.  Fake natural products often will have a long list of ingredients full of chemicals that may be harmful.
  • Compare similar products.  Look at the ingredients of one product that claims to be natural and one that does not, and see if there are any differences.
  • When in doubt check with a health professional.

In Australia, the law that covers greenwashing is the Trade Practices Act 1974 – that’s right, 1974!!! Hardly cutting edge legislation keeping up with consumer and marketing patterns. However, a few big names have been prosecuted under it. For example, in September of 2008 the Federal Court of Australia ruled that General Motors had broken this law with an advertisement that proclaimed the carbon neutrality of Saab cars. On closer inspection, it was clear that the 17 native trees the company pledged to plant for each car sold would offset only one year’s worth of carbon emissions, not the entire emissions over the lifetime of the vehicle, as the ads implied.

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