Winsett: Always be honest with 'green' claims

Winsett: Always be honest with 'green' claims

February 25th, 2011 in Business Diary

Q: As the BBB promotes "Truth in Advertising," are you finding that businesses are falsely advertising that they are a "green" company with their products and services?

A: Great question. BBB is advising businesses to "Promote Your Company's Greener Side."

Not only can going green save a company money, it can have a positive impact on how your customers perceive your products and services. If businesses are looking to get a reputational boost from their dedication to the environment, the Better Business Bureau recommends sticking to the truth and not exaggerating a company's impact.

There are many different shades and hues when it comes to being a green company. Some businesses strive to manufacture products that are better for the environment, while others take steps to be greener in daily operations, through measures such as recycling, using carbon offsets and taking steps to save energy.

BBB suggests and advises businesses that going green can save a company money, especially if it takes steps to conserve energy.

But it also can also make your company money as consumers are increasingly looking for products and services that will not be as harmful to the environment.

BBB offers the following advice on promoting a company's greener side:

* Tell the truth. Few things destroy a company's credibility with consumers faster than false advertising; regardless, some advertisers sometimes stretch the truth when it comes to talking up the eco-friendly qualities of products. When bragging about the shade of your green, as with any advertising or marketing claims, always tell the truth.

* Make concrete claims. An honest advertiser will not make vague statements such as "environmentally friendly" or "sustainable" without qualification and solid examples to back up the claim. If your packaging is made from recycled paper, then say so. If your company has reduced energy costs, brag about it! Making fuzzy claims, however, can get you into trouble.

* Provide evidence. Consider creative ways of quantifying your company's impact such as: How many hours have your employees volunteered? Who has benefited and how have they benefited from your firm's efforts. How are your products better for the environment?

* Get a stamp of approval. While there is no universal Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for green products, there are independent third-party organizations that will certify your environmentally friendly statements. Research any third party carefully before seeking certification through their program. Avoid making claims about certification or seals that might be considered exaggerated or overly broad.

* Get expert help. As a result of the green frenzy that has taken over the country, many new boutique marketing and advertising firms are specializing in branding companies as environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Getting outside PR help can be expensive. However, the rewards could be substantial in terms of revenue, reputation and goodwill.

For more reliable advice on best business practices and advertising guidelines for a business, as well as other ways to make a business more socially conscious, go to Business-Resources/.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor John Vass Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at