Two recent greenwashing decisions in the United States and Europe highlight the variousÂ (sometimes overlapping) organizations involved in combating false or misleading green advertising claims.
In the U.S., theÂ National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently examined environmental benefit and performance claims made in connection with “Eco Alkalines” batteries.
The manufacturer, LEI Electronics (LEI), agreed to most of the NAD’s recommendations includingÂ discontinuing certain advertising and modifying most of its environmental claims.
However, LEI pushed back againstÂ the NAD onÂ LEI’s carbon neutrality claim, so the NAD referred that claim to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for review (see the BBB announcementÂ here and the Lexology article here).
The statements that remain in disputeÂ are:
[E]very purchase is carbon neutral….by purchasing Eco Alkalines batteries, you’re doing your part to reduce the CO2 and climate change impact brought about by the production, distribution, and disposal of alkaline batteries.
[The product is a] 100% carbon neutral alkaline battery.
In Europe, the Lauterkeitskommission, the self-governing body of the Swiss commercial communications industry, found that certain claims made by the Swiss Gas Association (SGA, known as erdgas) regarding natural gas were insufficiently supported by evidence (see articleÂ here).
The disputed claims included the following statements:
Natural gas pollutes the environment less than oil, wood chips, pellets and coal power.
The most effective climate protection is to replace oil with natural gas.
Nature thanks you for purchasing a new natural gas heating.
The Lauterkeitskommission noted that the advertiser bears the burden of proving the truth of factual statements made in advertising. Â It held that environmental superiority over competitors can be claimed only when the advertiser can demonstrate a significant advantage.
As to the SGA’s first claim, theÂ Lauterkeitskommission held that the SGA’s evidence was insufficient to prove the superiority of gas over wood chips or pellets. The second claim was not sufficiently proven because, while natural gas may be superior to oil, there are other more environmentally beneficial heating systems.
The last claim was held to be permissible because it is “evident” that a new heating system would be superior to an old heating system.
While we’re used to the FTC and other national consumer watchdog agencies being involved in combating greenwashers, these investigations and decisions remind us that anti-greenwashing activity comes from many different types of organizations.