Green? Prove it!
by Tara Taffera
Some companies are receiving accolades this month as DWM
magazine’s Green Product Award winners (see
article on page 34). But across the country one manufacturer and a
dealer recently landed in hot water with the Washington State Attorney
General’s office for allegedly exaggerating green claims. The case of
what happened with Great Lakes Windows and its dealer, Penguin Windows,
proves more than ever that all companies have to be vigilant when it comes
to making product claims—green or otherwise (for the details on this story,
see page 20).
Writing that news story, along with judging the DWM Green Product Awards,
reminded me how important it is to be able to prove product claims. If
you say you have the lowest U-values, you better be able to back it up—and
something like that can be backed up through third-party testing. I caution
companies against using broad terms such as “the most innovative product
to be introduced in years.” It may get someone to look at your product,
but you’re probably better off citing a more concrete claim that you can
prove. That will likely be more effective at helping you gain new customers.
I also realize that the myriad of claims being made by various customers
actually puts more burden on the homeowner to weed out the fact from fiction.
Literature from Great Lakes/ Penguin allegedly said that homeowners would
save at least 40 percent in energy costs during the first year after replacing
their windows. The Attorney General’s office said this was a false claim.
So if you’re a manufacturer that is making similar claims you’ll want
to be able to prove it—or back off. It could be that some homeowners will
save 40 percent, but we all know that it depends on various other factors.
In fact, I visited with one window manufacturer representative a few months
ago who said his company doesn’t make specific claims such as this because
it’s too difficult to prove exactly how much homeowners will save in their
energy bills—maybe it’s 35 percent, maybe it’s 60 percent or somewhere
I’ve written about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides for the
Use of Environmental Marketing Claims in the past (see October 2008 DWM,
page 32), but if you’re not aware of them go to www.ftc.gov
to learn more. The FTC issued its Guides for the Use of Environmental
Marketing Claims, commonly known as the Green Guides, to help marketers
avoid making environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section
5 of the FTC Act. The Green Guides outline general principles that apply
to all environmental marketing claims and then provide guidance on specific
green claims, such as biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled
content and ozone safe.
If you don’t heed the above advice, think of Great Lakes and the $10,000
they’re now spending in court costs and attorneys’ fees—not to mention
possible reimbursements to their customers.
Manufacture and sell efficient windows; just be sure to not overstate
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