Knowledge Leadership Weekly Insights

As Earth Day approaches, an occasion Ad Age has likened to Christmas due to its paradoxically commercial slant, it is critical for companies to communicate their environmental commitments accurately and responsibly. The FTC is taking notice of the abundance of environmental messages in the marketplace and is holding a second workshop in late April to reevaluate its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.

In light of these events, Cone, in collaboration with The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, this week released the 2008 Green Gap Survey exploring Americans’ understanding of and attitudes toward environmental marketing claims, as well as their desire for oversight of such messages.

The findings revealed that although Americans are trusting of companies, there is a disconnect (the “Green Gap”) between the environmental claims they hear and what they conclude these messages to mean.  Almost half of the population (48 percent) erroneously believes common environmental terms such as “environmentally friendly” or “green” best describe products that have a positive (read: beneficial) impact on the environment.  In reality, these terms more accurately describe products that have either a lesser impact than previous iterations or than competitive products.  A majority of Americans also indicate they would welcome oversight of environmental marketing claims. 

The combination of these findings underscores the precarious nature of the environmental marketing landscape.  Currently operating under a “trust, but verify” assumption, American consumers risk disillusionment and possibly disaffection as they begin to realize that the environmental claims they hear are not necessarily what they may seem. 

For more on the research findings and some guidelines for companies, please visit our website