Consumers confused by green claims

18 November 2014

MARIETTA, GA: Consumers are confused by many of the green claims made on product packaging, especially those which are technical, generic or simply involve a logo with no context, a study has found.

For its Claiming Green report, UL Environment, a business offering certification, validation and testing services, surveyed 1,017 consumers in the US and Canada, and generated almost 42,000 head-to-head comparisons of green product claims in the DIY, electronics, personal care and cleaning categories.

The claims were divided into three types – certified claims, legitimate claims and problematic claims – depending on how well they met the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides.

Certified claims performed best across all product categories, being chosen 54% of the time when put through a head-to-head comparison with problematic claims, which were chosen 24% of the time.

When legitimate claims were matched with problematic claims, they came out ahead, but by a narrower margin, being chosen 39% of the time to problematic's 35%. And in two categories – DIY and personal care – problematic claims were even chosen ahead of legitimate claims.

Respondents were also asked if they would pay up to 10% more for a product with third-party certifications, a question which produced a 58:42 split in favour of this proposal.

Drilling down further, respondents then viewed a list of potential claims in different categories and chose the ones they'd be willing to meet a 10% premium for. At this point, 70% chose at least one certified claim, while 59% chose at least one problematic claim and only 44% chose at least one legitimate claim.

This demonstrated, said UL Environment, that "consumers assign real value to third-party certifications", and products carrying these marks were "likely increasing the perceived value" of their offering.

But how that matter is presented remains an issue: a logo with the certifying body's name and no explanation of what it meant were poorly received, for instance. Consumers also reacted negatively to claims with overly technical or generic language.

"As purchasers become more sophisticated about product claims, successfully communicating green claims is more important than ever to a company's brand and reputation," said Lisa Meier, UL Environment's vice president and general manager.

Data sourced from PR Newswire, UL Environment; additional content by Warc staff