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NAD Wants Seventh Generation to Fix ‘Natural’ Claims

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Seventh Generation either modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s household cleaning and laundry products. This comes after the products were challenged by Procter & Gamble (P&G).

The decision came after NAD reviewed the health, safety and ingredient claims made in broadcast and Internet advertising and product packaging by Seventh Generation.

At issue were Seventh Generation’s broadcast advertising, which featured people carrying boxes of unlabeled cleaning products as the voiceover stated: “We’re Seventh Generation and we want to talk to you about a revolution. People everywhere are saying no to hazardous chemicals …. and yes to a safe and naturally effective way to clean.” Also challenged was a video at Seventh Generation’s Website, featuring P&G’s  Tide Total Care Liquid Detergent and Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and the author of “Raising Baby Green.”

The claims in question include:

–Seventh Generation Household Cleaning Products do not contain “hazardous” chemicals.

–Seventh Generation Detergents are [100%] natural.

–All products that compete with Seventh Generation Household Cleaning Products, particularly P&G household cleaning products: (1) are not safe, (2) are not as safe as Seventh Generation Household Cleaning Products, (3) require consumers to hold their breath during use and (4) are leading to a rapid increase in childhood illnesses such as autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies, cancer and diabetes.

Although Seventh Generation said it will take recommendations into consideration, the company already has removed the video from its Website and says it will “permanently discontinue” the advertising claim involving the “five second rule” in conjunction with the depiction of the baby’s pacifier being picked off the floor and put back in the baby’s mouth.

According to NAD, both Seventh Generation and P&G conceded that their household cleaning products contain hazardous chemicals. The review also finds that there is no evidence, when used as directed, that Seventh Generation products are safer than competing household cleaning products.

NAD recommendations call for Seventh Generation to discontinue any express or implied claims that suggest its products do not contain hazardous chemicals and that it discontinues the comparative safety claims at issue and limit references to consumers having to hold their breath when using household cleaning products by making the basis of comparison very specific.

However, the decision does not prevent Seventh Generation from promoting its efforts to minimize the use of hazardous chemicals in its products or promote full disclosure of all the ingredients in its household cleaning products.

NAD also said that the use of “natural” on certain products should be qualified to make it clear that the basis for the claim is the fact that the surfactants, or cleaning agents, are plant-derived or plant-based. Also, reference to “naturally” in the context of the television commercial at issue should be discontinued and that the advertiser avoid conveying the message that its product is all-natural.

Seventh Generation is not the only ‘green’ product company to run into issues with NAD. Others include Chlorox for its Clorox Green Works line.

More trouble may be ahead for ‘green’ advertisers as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gets ready to release an updated set of Green Guides that are used by the agency to enforce environmental marketing laws against unfair and deceptive advertising.

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