The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) recently recommended that GP Plastics Corp., the maker of PolyGreen® plastic bags for the newspaper industry, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for its PolyGreen plastic bags.
You will recall an earlier post on greenwashingspy.com that questioned similar claims made by The New York Times in its announcement to use degradable’ bags for home delivery of newspapers.
Some of GP Plastic’s marketing claims that the NAD found unsupported included:
• PolyGreen plastic bags are “100% oxo-biodegradable”
• PolyGreen plastic bags are “disposable through ordinary channels” and go “from front lawn, to waste bins to the landfill”
• “You won’t notice any difference but the environment will.”
• “The greatest thing to ever hit the earth.”
• “Eco-Friendly Plastic Newspaper Bags”
• PolyGreen plastic bags are “environmentally friendly.”
• “Our bags are completely recyclable”
• “The result is obvious – bag it with PolyGreen and increase your margins while saving the planet.”
Ah, yes, nothing quite says you’re a ‘green company’ than the duality of enhancing customer margins while saving the planet!
There are some good takeaways here:
For marketers, simply put, making frivolous or empty ‘green’ claims is a losing game. The NAD has reaffirmed the directions set out by the by the Federal Trade Commission’s Environmental Marketing Guides.
Next, consumers are becoming more sophisticated (and skeptical) of green claims. Genuine attempts to offer truly “green” products attract the attention of sophisticated consumers and harness powerful market forces which can be a catalyst for true environmental progress. Frivolous claims only attract powerful legal and political forces looking to make an example of a marketing wizard.
Also, this decision really challenges the notion of product ingredients or additives that confer magical “green” properties on products.
To make ‘biodegradable’ a real solution, manufacturers need to first develop products and packages that completely biodegrade, in a timely fashion, under the appropriate conditions. They also need to educate consumers and municipal officials about the merits of composting as a waste-diversion tactic. And finally, marketers, consumers and their legislators need to support sustainable, community-based composting programs.
PS: GP stated that they would appeal the NAD’s findings. Stay tuned.