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How is the marketing world reacting to the public’s desire for a ‘greener’ and ‘more sustainable’ world?

The concept of environmental “sustainability” has generated increasing interest among manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and consumers. As we are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment, there is a demand for environmental information about the products from consumers, government and industry.

In response to this interest, many companies have made concerted efforts to improve environmental sustainability. However the popularity of green claims has been accompanied by criticism that businesses are overstating or misrepresenting the environmental benefits or attributes of a product or service, or the impact of a company’s practices on the environment. Vague, unsubstantiated, or misleading claims are sometimes characterized as “greenwashing” by critics and have the potential to both undermine consumer confidence and penalize those marketers that employ responsible practice for truthful and non-deceptive advertising.

As consideration for the environmental benefits of a product plays a more prominent role in consumer purchasing decisions, the need has arisen for guidance, to assist marketers and their agencies evaluate environmental marketing communications.

ICC has responded to this call by developing a global Framework for Responsible Environmental Marketing Communications. This well-received, guidance document for business is a companion to the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications (access via www.codescentre.com) which sets forth general principles governing all marketing communications. The framework offers more detailed interpretation of the environmental claims chapter of the general code and a checklist to help marketers and their agencies evaluate claims.

Together these tools provide comprehensive guidance for marketers and regulators on how to avoid and evaluate claims to meet the Code standards and avoid misleading consumers. The Framework helps marketers and their agencies ensure that the messages they develop hold up to the basic principles of truthful, honest and socially responsible communications, and in so doing warrant that consumer confidence in these claims is safeguarded. In 2011 both the Consolidated ICC Code and ICC’s Environmental Framework were updated, taking into account new international developments and standards.