Ottman Checklist for Credible Green Marketing Claims | AdvertisingAge/J.Ottman


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Use this checklist as a practical tool for use in ensuring the credibility of your green marketing claims and programs.

J. Ottman and D. Mallen, How to Make Credible Green Marketing Claims: What Marketers Need to Know about the Updated FTC Green Guides, AdvertisingAge, 2013
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Ottman Checklist for Credible Green Marketing Claims | AdvertisingAge/J.Ottman

  1. 1. HOW TO MAKE CREDIBLE GREEN MARKETING CLAIMS THE OTTMAN CHECKLIST FOR CREDIBLE GREEN MARKETING Use the following checklist as a summary of key points made in this report, as well as a practical tool for use in ensuring the credibility of your green marketing claims and programs. HAVE WE BUILT A FOUNDATION FOR EFFECTIVENESS? ■ Have we defined our values and what sustainability means to us? ■ Are we walking our talk? Is a sustainability mindset firmly embedded within our company’s culture, core values and business strategy? ■ Are we communicating our values to all stakeholders? ■ Does our CEO openly believe in and support sustainability? ■ Do our employees understand the key environmental and sustainability issues affecting our business? Are they empowered to act? CAN WE FULLY SUBSTANTIATE OUR CLAIMS AND COMPLY WITH THE FTC GREEN GUIDES AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS? SUBSTANTIATING SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL MARKETING CLAIMS ■ Do our specific claims involve a holistic understanding of our products’ environmental and social impact and do they avoid focusing solely on one or two environmental attributes? ■ Are we avoiding claims that are virtually impossible to support, such as general environmental marketing claims and claims of biodegradability for products and packages that wind up in landfills? ■ Are we avoiding deceptive or misleading claims, in other words: ■ Are our claims meaningful, specific, complete and without exaggeration? ■ Are we being straightforward with type size, SETTING THE STAGE ■ Are we building a fact base for our environmental marketing claims by evaluating our products’ and packages’ environmental impact throughout their life cycle: raw materials, manufacturing and production, distribution, marketing to in-use, after-use and end-of-life management? ■ Are we working with suppliers to understand environmental impacts throughout our products’ supply chains? ■ Have we educated ourselves about various green marketing pitfalls by consulting secondary literature, legal precedent and reviewing past cases of the FTC and the NAD? ■ Are we taking steps to educate all of our internal and external personnel involved with making environmental claims, e.g., our in-house and outside counsel, marketing, advertising, communications, sustainability and environmental staff and vendors, about the relevant terms that affect our business within the environmental lexicon? ■ Have we thoroughly assessed all of our current campaigns, claims and use of brand names, package designs and imagery (corporate graphics, seals, logos, etc.) to ensure they follow the revised FTC Green Guides? proximity, etc.? ■ Are we avoiding overstatement? ■ Are we avoiding vague, trivial or irrelevant claims that can create a false impression of a product’s environmental benefits? ■ Are we providing complete information? ■ Have we obtained all necessary substantiation from our suppliers for all claims that we make about their materials, processes, etc.? ■ If we are marketing products outside the U.S., are we complying with legal requirements and guidelines provided by other countries? Are we avoiding making contradictory claims in different countries in order to maintain credibility? Do our claims translate properly into foreign languages? THIRD-PARTY SEALS AND ENDORSEMENTS ■ Have we considered the use of credible certifications and eco-labels issued by independent third parties including government, industry associations and NGOs? ■ In selecting the appropriate third-party labels, have we considered the levels of awareness and purchase influence that exist among consumers for these labels? ■ Are we providing the appropriate disclosures to our certifications and eco-labels on product, packaging and/or CONTINUED ON P. 35 34 · SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 ADVERTISING AGE
  2. 2. HOW TO MAKE CREDIBLE GREEN MARKETING CLAIMS CONTINUED FROM P. 35 advertising? Are we making sure any supporting information is available on a website? ■ If there are no third-party standards and eco-labels in our guidelines such as those promulgated by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to ensure consistency in reporting? CONSUMERS ■ How sophisticated are our consumers about common envi- industry, are we taking advantage of opportunities to join with industry peers to create a consensus-based standard such as those of the American National Standards Institute that could then be verified by third parties? ronmental marketing terms? Are we avoiding the mistake of assuming that our target audience knows more about environmental issues affecting our products, the science behind our products, etc. than they actually do? ■ Have we considered the use of an environmental product ■ Have we tested the net takeaway of our messages and images declaration as an alternative to eco-labels, with the ability to provide more detailed, LCA-type data or disclosure, especially with institutional purchasers? ■ Are we taking advantage of any opportunities to get claims for which no standards exist certified by an independent body? ■ Are we disclosing our relationships with third parties, including any certifiers or paid endorsements? Are we following the FTC’s Endorsement and Testimonial guidelines (as well as the Green Guides)? ■ What can we learn from reputable experts about the proper use of terms not defined by the FTC Green Guides, such as “natural,” “sustainable” and “water footprint.” among consumers for comprehension and believability? ■ Are we being prudent about using LCA as a marketing tool? Are we fully aware of its shortcomings in this regard as well as, relatedly, lack of consumer understanding about LCA and how to interpret its results? ■ When touting our products’ environmental benefits, are we being transparent about those environmental and social impacts not measured by LCA? RETAILERS ■ Do we understand what types of proof our retailers may require in order to support our environmental-marketing claims? Have we completed any required surveys? Have we submitted our products for any required testing? CORPORATE SELF-DECLARATIONS ■ If we are using a corporate self-declaration, what is the basis or standard upon which we are making the declaration? Is it crystal-clear to consumers that our company or organization has issued the self-declaration and not a third party? BE THOROUGH ■ Are we prepared to address the environmental impact of our marketing practices and materials? Beyond the common practices of using recycled paper and soybean inks, are we working to disclose the environmental impacts associated with our print, broadcast and digital-marketing supply chains? CAUSE-RELATED MARKETING ■ Have we considered the benefits and risks of cause marketing? Are we following best practices in promoting transparency in our cause-marketing campaigns? ■ Are we ensuring that cause marketing, just like green marketing efforts in general, considers a holistic approach to our brand? ■ Are we focusing on causes and environmental benefits that are most relevant to our brand? ARE WE PROMOTING RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION OF OUR PRODUCTS THROUGHOUT THEIR LIFE CYCLE? ■ Are we engaging our consumers in proper use of our products as well as in conserving resources in general, including encouraging them to use only what is needed, and consciously reducing waste? ■ Are we making provisions to have our products disposed of responsibly or returned for recycling, reuse, remanufacturing or repair? ARE WE COMMUNICATING TRANSPARENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY WITH OUR CONSUMERS AND RETAILERS? TRANSPARENCY SHOULD WE SIMPLY FOCUS ON THE CONSUMER BENEFITS OUR PRODUCTS PROVIDE? ■ Are we providing all the information consumers and other ■ Have we considered opportunities to promote our products stakeholders seek to evaluate our brand’s environmental benefits? Specifically, are we providing access to details of products and corporate practices and actively reporting on progress? Are we reporting the bad as well as the good? ■ Are we making it easy for stakeholders to evaluate our corporate environmental performance by following industry ADVERTISING AGE by focusing on primary benefits either exclusively (and thereby avoiding the use of environmental-marketing claims altogether) or as a complement to environmental attributes? For instance, are we addressing specific direct benefits of our products to save money? Protect health? SOURCE: J. OTTMAN CONSULTING, INC. USED WITH PERMISSION SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 · 35