With the world’s heightened awareness of what it means for corporations to become greener, consumer demand for environmentally friendly and healthier products continues to increase. Many companies have developed programs claiming their products are sustainable. And for the consumer it can become difficult to understand what claims mean and if they are accurate. Some retailers are trying to simplify and standardize messages for customers by using environmental or sustainability claims on own-brand products, symbols for these claims i.e. labels, and product curation frameworks.
National authorities, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), continue to monitor instore and online claims of product sustainability.
Major retailers are using self-declared marks. However, some are faced with the complexity of collecting data and validating the eco-claims. There are two ways retailers typically address this challenge – sometimes separately and sometimes in tandem. One approach is by leveraging extensive product compliance data and UL’s PurView® Platform.
Purview® is a comprehensive data management and decision support platform. It enables companies to collect and analyze information about material inputs, products and suppliers in their supply chain. Our solution helps retailers curate their product assortments, implement their chemical policies, select safer materials from better suppliers for their own brands, and accelerate sustainable product development.
Large retailers are using PurView data to inform their customers of clean products from cosmetics to baby products to clean household essentials, and are using their own symbol for their own brands that meet those requirements.
This approach works well when retailers have strong commitments to creating and maintaining their own curation program, informed by rigorous science-based analysis. It also works well when retailers have high-level confidence in the data their suppliers provide, and an operational plan to support the collection and screening of data.
A second approach is to use third-party ecolabel certification programs, thus in some ways outsourcing that curation and science-based analysis. UL’s ecolabel programs like ECOLOGO® or Environmental Claim Validation (ECV) programs are examples of these kinds of tools. In fact, both can coexist, where customers may use PurView for own-brand curation, complemented by third-party certifications to provide the assurance sought for certain product categories.
Whatever their path forward, retailers ought to conform to regulator (U.S. FTC) and other green claim guidance either in the implementation of their own programs and labeling schemes or in selecting credible third-party programs to support their efforts. All program operators should:
- Avoid vague terms such as eco-friendly
- Use plain claim language
- Link benefits to a specific part of the product to which it is applicable
- Establish a public website where you post information about the program
- Be prepared to disclose the evidence supporting the claims to enforcement authorities if challenged.
- When using a symbol with a claim, include any qualifying language and provide a URL for the public website where the program information is located and in close proximity to the symbol.