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Generic Green Claims Can Get Companies in Trouble with Consumers

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The 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker reports on Americans' response to feeling misled by environmental claims made by companies about their products. As noted by The Inspired Economist, only 11% would continue to purchase the product, 71% would stop purchasing that particular product, and 37% would stop purchasing company’s products completely. That puts a lot of pressure on companies publishing environmental claims, as anything found to be misleading could seriously backfire.

The study also shows that most Americans are not clear on the definitions for common environmental marketing terms. Although 97% of Americans feel they understand what “green” means, their perception is often incongruent with the standard definition. Unfortunately, 41% of Americans are too optimistic in believing that the terms “green” or “environmentally friendly” represent products that benefit the environment. Only 29% understand that these terms simply note that the product does less damage to the environment than the previous version or a competitor.

At least the number of Americans aware of these environmental claims is increasing. Nevertheless, it would benefit everyone’s understanding if companies detailed their claims and followed the guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission for the definitions of various terms.

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