Every day millions of people shop for a variety of products and many of these consumers are looking for environmentally friendly products. How do you, as a consumer, choose which items to buy? How does a company most effectively label their products so that they will appeal to shoppers?
Recently, the Green Biz Group hosted a webinar entitled “How Green Product Claims Affect Purchase Intent and Brand Perception”. Leading global brands are increasing their focus on sustainability. This fact led to a study commissioned by UL Laboratories and conducted by The Shelton Group.
‘Greenwashing’ is a practice employed by some companies in an effort to increase their sales and visibility. It involves making environmental claims that are invalid. Companies that are legitimately ‘green’ are looking for ways to ensure the public that their claims are indeed true.
The study conducted by The Shelton Group was conducted in June 2014. Participants indicated four areas in which they were most interested in regard to environmental claims: home improvement, electronics, personal care and cleaning products.
Product claims were divided into three categories:
- Certified claims which featured a logo.
- Legitimate claims which were found to be valid but on the product label only consisted of words and no logo.
- Problematic claims were those that were perceived to be vague or confusing.
Researchers found that consumers were much more comfortable buying products that had a certifying logo such as the Ecologo from UL Laboratories. Even the familiar Good Housekeeping logo, the Energy Star logo and the USDA Organic logo ranked high among the consumers. However, the logos that did the best also included words that described the basis for the certification.
Products that had some sort of logo but no qualifying language also performed well but were not as popular as those mentioned above.
Items that had legitimate claims just in the form of words did not rank as high but did well when the wording was clear and understandable. It also made a big difference if the consumer was looking for something with that particular claim and believed the company’s claim to be trustworthy.
The brands that did poorly in the study were those where the claims were vague or confusing. This is not to say that the claims are invalid, it primarily indicates that these claims were problematic for consumers.
Examples of problematic claims included those that simply say things such as ‘all natural’, ‘recycled content’ and ‘environmentally friendly’. These may all be true about the product but they are too vague and generic to know exactly what they mean.
Other problematic claims consisted of products with language that is confusing or unknown to consumers. A prime example of this is paint that claims to be ‘low VOC’ or ‘VOC free’. Many, if not most, consumers are not readily aware of what VOC stands for and why these claims may be a good thing. VOC stands for volatile organic compound which is definitely something you would like to avoid in household paint!
Vague or problematic claims can do harm to a company ‘s brand if consumers avoid their products for those reasons.
The bottom line is for brands to be as clear and exact as they can be. The best choice is to secure a recognized and respected certification logo.