Blog: Are some products’ claims too good to be true?

Recent global research released by the UN Environment Programme found that only a shocking ‘17% of [assessed] labels give consumers quality information to make informed recycling and purchasing decisions’ (Packaging Europe, 2020). It is apparent that there is a lack of standardisation and accountability leaving brands free to create their own sustainability labels and claims. In light of this, earlier this year a member of our innovation team was at the Greenbiz Summit and attended an enlightening discussion questioning ‘are some product claims too good to be true’ led by Chris Cooke of The Sustainability Consortium.

The term “sustainability” can spark scepticism. Consumers are unsure whether a company is merely slapping an eco-sticker on their product or really making the world better’ (The Times, 2020). Advertising claims are a key driver for consumer decision-making and rightly brands are keen on competitively highlighting the best attributes for the products they sell as well as providing a platform to educate consumers on the materials which are used to make that product.

However, it’s often difficult to tell fact from fiction for some environmental claims in the market. From ‘free of’ to ‘ozone-friendly’ to ‘100% biodegradable’, along with a myriad of certifications and seals of approval placed on products daily, it is no wonder that 43% of consumers think that brands are actively hindering their efforts to live more sustainably (Futerra, 2018). Crucially, there are ways to elevate your products’ sustainability messaging above the noise which adm encourage our clients to adopt and adhere to in their POS materials:

Accurate: The green consumer is quickly moving away from generic claims, it is no longer enough to communicate what sustainable attributes a product has, but consumers demand to ‘tell me why and how’ this is sustainable. All this requires a reliable basis of substantiated data and assumptions.

Meaningful: It can be a challenge for brands to add meaningful context to their products with such limited space and satisfy the consumer’s appetite for information. This is where a smart label offers a unique opportunity by immediately increasing the potential for brands to provide a wealth of meaningful context to products for consumers to identify as sustainable, highlighting further efforts at heightened transparency.

Educational: Consumers want to know what to do with the product and so here brands have an opportunity to utilise on pack messaging to move from messaging to action. They can communicate how the consumer should be disposing of the product, actively encouraging consumers to play a role. This should go beyond the conventional recycling tiles in order to truly convey which disposal route the material belongs to. Bill Doak, Senior Manager of Product Sustainability at Walgreens highlighted that even if a brand communicates that the item is ‘not recyclable’, whilst is not ideal and should be updated, it is also a win as it educates the consumer not to ‘wish recycle’. This is a growing problem among consumers who, wanting to do the right thing, will dispose the item in the recycling potentially causing further problems down the waste management chain.

Understandable: Underpinning everything is ensuring that the consumer clearly understands what the product claim is trying to say or the instruction in end of life treatment. With the myriad of certifications and logos that appear on products it is essential to use simple, accurate messages that consumers understand thereby making the information shared actually useful to their way of life.

adm are keen to support all our clients in delivering clear, concise messaging on products. Navigating this largely unregulated landscape regarding climate related claims is no easy task but adm has a wealth of procurement experts, a varied manufacturing base and in-house sustainability specialists to provide a universal effort in communicating clearly and accurately to consumers.