Eco-Labeling and Greenwashing

Introduction The “green revolution” in business has forced various companies to produce eco-friendly products and services. Products containing “eco-friendly” labels can be seen well stocked in supermarkets or displayed on billboards alongside roads and highways. When some companies are genuinely engaged in social marketing and are concerned towards the protection of the environment, others simply use this as a differentiation technique and reap competitive advantages from the move. Two products are chosen for the analysis whereby Ecover’s Fabric Softener is used to exemplify the genuine eco-labeling, and 7up’s new branding related with “natural” ingredients is used to classify a product with “greenwashing” labeling and advertising.

The ‘Genuinely’ Eco-labeled Product Label and Certifications Ecover offers a range of products that are genuinely eco-labeled. The mission of the manufacturing company and the Ecover brand is to protect the sea water and promote improved environmental-friendly hygiene of people. It offers products for personal care, household use, laundry, and dishwashing all of which ultimately affect the water that is used and disposed of. Ecover’s Fabric Softener is chosen as the first product. Its labeling contains the certification of being the “best green cleaner” given by Kiwi Awards 2011 (See Appendix I, Figures 1-7). It also contains certification by dermatologists for being dermatologically tested for sensitive skin.

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The labeling also contains messages such as “Only Natural Fragrances Used” as well as “Kind to your skin”. These messages provide insights into the ingredients and the friendliness of the product towards skin as well as the environment to add to its appeal and inform the consumers of what they should be looking for in eco-friendly or eco-labeled products. The plastic used in the bottles is 100 per cent recyclable as labeled on the product (Ecover, 2011). The product with its packaging and labeling is included in Appendix I for reference. Guarantees The product guarantees the following personal benefits (See Figure 2 in Appendix I): It says that its contents are suitable for people who have sensitive skin which means hat the chemicals used in the liquid of the fabric softener are not harmful for the normal and sensitive skin. The product offers compatibility with High Efficiency (HE) Machines which widens its appeal to consumers who are worried whether the liquid would harm their machinery.

The product guarantees to soften the fabrics being washed with the liquid whereby reducing the static cling that the fabrics are left with normal washing. The fabrics after being washed with the product are easier to iron and pleasant to touch. The liquid of the product cares for the skin of the washer who uses the product while washing with the machines. Wearing the fabrics washed with the liquid also provides care for the skin of the wearer. The product offers a natural and fresh fragrance (Ecover, 2011).

The following benefits are also labeled on the packaging pertaining to the environment-friendliness of the product. The product is manufactured using natural and mineral ingredients that are processed in the plant. The product is biodegradable in a quick and complete fashion. The product allows less harm to the natural water and ensures minimum affect on the aquatic life. The product has not been tested on animals. The product offers suitability for septic tanks.

Usefulness of the LabelThe Ecover product range is labeled to revolutionize consumption of the people related to household use products. The information on the packaging makes the consumers aware of the everyday harms done to the sea water and aquatic life and how careful selection of products for everyday use can minimize the amount of harm normally caused by household consumption. The brand name along with clear and dominant labeling relating to the environmental concerns offer at a glance an awareness relating to the environmental benefits of the product. Upon close reading, the consumers get to know how using the product they will contribute not only towards producing less harm to their skin but also towards the protection of the atmosphere and environment they live in. Upon reading the product labeling, the consumers feel the responsibility towards their environment as they get knowledge of how their everyday household chores and activities such as dishwashing, laundry, personal care etc drain down harmful chemicals that eventually mix with the sea water where the sea creatures live and breathe. When consumers purchase Ecover brands, like the Fabric Softener, they own the responsibility towards cleaning the environment that comes with the use of the product (Ecover, 2011).

Product with Greenwashing Labeling The 7up’s “100% natural” labeling is definitely an example of greenwashing labeling (See Figure 8 and 9 in Appendix II). This part of their advertising campaign that allows the company to respond to the environmental pressures and the industry-wide move towards “greener” business and “social marketing” has led various companies like the producers of 7up to come up with clever advertising and promotional campaigns (Ethical Shopper, 2008). The product has been suffering from falling sales owing to the industry wide fall in sales volume of soft drinks owing to the economic slump. Pesico, Coca-Cola and others are all suffering from falling sales. When Pepsi and Coca-Cola enjoy the returns of brand equity at this point of time and use their positioning and market presence to sustain their competitive advantages, lower-end brands such as 7up suffer from falling sales. Social influences have also reduced the consumption of carbonated drinks as people have rising concerns towards their health and have reduced the consumption of the drinks that add to obesity and create health problems.

Along with health concerns, people are concerned of the environment as well and look for eco-labels to reduce their contribution towards harming the environment they live in. They look for recyclable plastic and guarantees from the producer relating to the level of harm that the product adds to the environment (The Daily Green, 2009). For this reason, drinks have sought to associate themselves more with “lifestyle” and “social responsibility” than “taste” to distinguish them and encourage consumers to purchase. Such marketing campaigns make use of “greenwashing” advertising and labeling rather than actually becoming responsible for the environment. Their concern is just to encourage sales and reap profits. Green-washing can be easily identified if the labeling does not provide easily testable and observable benefits as claimed by the advertising or not claimed at all in detail (Boomberg Business Week, 2010).

The advertising campaigns claim that the product has been reformulate to remove artificial preservatives to make it hundred per cent natural (See Figure 10 in Appendix II). However, this does not remove the harmful chemicals still used to manufacture and increase the concentrate of the drink as it is not merely a lemonade drink that they offer to consumers. It is not a 100 per cent natural drink (see Appendix II). The labeling is vague and fails to provide any relevant detail. The product has been found to use corn syrup in the concentrate that makes use of intense manufacturing. This is opposite to natural ingredients.

Thus, the “labeling” of 100 per cent natural ingredients of 7up is found to be invalid (Ethical Shopper, 2008).