Claims that products are “environmentally friendly” can sometimes be a little questionable. In Europe this “greenwashing” has resulted in many complaints about advertising being upheld by the regulators, with judgements in the UK against large companies such as a car manufacturer, airline, supermarket and energy company. Now marketing professionals are running campaigns in the UK and can refer to new guidance from DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Failure to observe these and similar guidelines in other European countries could result in legal sanctions.
Some of the things that you need to consider when making environmental claims include whether the claim is relevant and reflects a genuine benefit to the environment, making sure the claim is presented clearly and accurately, and ensuring the claim can be substantiated.
There’s a great overview on the Marketing Law website (registration required). The site highlights a number of issues raised by the guidance – for example to be a genuine environmental benefit, “claims should reflect an additional benefit to the environment beyond what is already happening in the current market, and go over and above what is required by law”.
It’s pretty clear that the pressure to show environmental claims can be substantiated will continue to increase, particularly in Europe. However perhaps the biggest risk – particular in the B2B technology sector – is that potential customers won’t just dismiss weak claims, but will see greenwashing as a reason to avoid using a particular supplier.