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UK Releases Updated Green Claims Guide

Posted 3 February 2011 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News.

DEFRA – the UK’s environmental protection authority – released today their updated Green Claims Guide (here is a link to the full pdf guide).

The cover clearly shouts their intentions – to build trust and confidence in environmental communications by making clear, accurate and substantiated claims.

Making  “relevant claims” is presented as the first step in their process for delivering good claims. Relevance is important because you can be as clear, accurate and substantiated as you want but if the main environmental impact of your product is something other than what your claim addresses, the claim could be considered less relevant. The new ‘Wind Made’ ecolabel launched at the World Economic Forum could be at risk of something like this, for example.

So what are the guts of the new guides from the UK? They break it down into steps:

1. Check the content is relevant and reflects a genuine benefit,
2. Present the claim clearly and accurately, and
3. Check the claim can be readily substantiated.

There is a full section  discussing the best use of third party labelling schemes, including a list of principles to assess labels (see page 30).

On Page 7 they write ” .. the true value of environmental claims and marketing rests on the assurance that the claims are both  credible to consumers, and reflect a  genuine benefit  to the environment.” That is, delivering a trustworthy and genuinely beneficial claim are the key ingredients to success.

The information design of the guidelines themselves are to be commended for practising what they preach – they provide clear explanations, examples and actions to guide marketers in making good environmental claims.  This contrasts with the technical/legal guidance released by the US Federal Trade Commission last year that was difficult for many companies to understand and implement.