Just this week the Natural Products Association announced the first recipient of its “natural home care seal” – Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner. The goal of the certification program is to “eliminate confusion about the meaning of “natural”. Right… that certainly clears it up for me!
I’m not anti-Earth Day or anti-green on any given day. However, from a marketing standpoint, green certificationscontinue to flood the market, decreasing their value – even for the certifications that are beneficial to consumers.
I highly doubt the average consumer can differentiate between green seals. I’m sure if I called 10 people not associated with the CPG industry, they wouldn’t be able to name a single green certification or have any idea of the significance of the Green Seal, EcoLogo, DfE, Green-E, Cradle to Cradle, Natural Products Association Certification, Good Housekeeping Green Seal, etc. And this isn’t the consumer’s fault.
This is a major problem for the industry, and the Federal Trade Commission is even stepping in a year earlier than originally planed to review its green marketing guide. However, I don’t anticipate this will solve the problem anytime soon.
I’m not recommending CPG companies avoid third-party green certifications that enhance credibility. However, CPG companies need to evaluate which green seal will be the most beneficial and push the third-party certification companies to generate more awareness about their seal and why consumers should look for it on retail shelves.
However, just as with the other “green” certifications available to CPG companies, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal is catching some heat that it is simply a moneymaker for the publisher. Well… isn’t that why all these “green” certifications are popping up.
I’m in total agreement that there needs to guidelines for “green” products, but until the government steps in, green certifications will basically be a free for all with consumers totally confused about what these seals actually mean.
In the April issue of Good Housekeeping, Rosemary Ellis, editor in chief of Good Housekeeping, is launching its official green seal. The seal will help consumers identify “green” products from those so prevalently greenwashing. Unless of course, the products have already been certified green by numerous certification programs in the marketplace – Green Seal, EPA Designed for the Environment, EcoLogo, GreenBlue, Green Label, Eco-Label, GreenGuard…
The problem is consumers are not only bombarded by greenwashing, but they have to decipher all these “green certifications” that continue to be created. Conducting marketing and public relations in the CPG industry, I still had to consult Google for green certifications because the list continues to grow longer each passing day. If I cannot even remember or recall them, how will a busy mom of three? And will consumers actually look for these certifications? If so, will they know the difference between the certifications?
The answer is no. As long as the green certifications company are more focused on the number of certifications they can achieve, and less worried about educating the public on when and why to look for their certifications, these green labels will mean nothing to consumers. This is precisely why the government needs to step in sooner than later and standardize the green product certification process much like it did with food nutrition labeling and organic product guidelines.
However, I think of all the certification programs available, The Good Housekeeping Green Seal will actually be the most trusted among consumers because of the equity in the Good Housekeeping brand and seal. Consumers will quickly and easily recognize the seal because the design is only slightly different than the original seal (an excellent strategic decision).
While the news about the Good Housekeeping Green Seal did not provide specific guidelines on what will be evaluated outside of energy efficiency, packaging reduction and water quality, hopefully Good Housekeeping will revel more information on the criteria so the seal has real value to consumers and manufacturers alike.