Advertisers, hoping to capitalize on growing public interest in sustainability, have put more resources into “green” advertising aimed at attracting consumers with claims of improved environmental impact of products, according a Worldwatch Institute report released this week.
The report, issued by the Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online subscription-based tool, says the number of products marketed with environmental claims each year in the US grew from around 100 in 2004 to more than 1,500 in 2009.
The economic recession has affected the focus on green marketing as major brands reduce spending. For example, Clorox slashed ad spending for its Green Works product line from more than $25 million in 2008 and 2009 to just $2.4 million in 2010, according to the report.
Still, the increase in false claims by advertisers about a product’s sustainability prompted the US Federal Trade Commission last year to update its Green Guides, which will allow the agency to take enforcement action against deceptive environmental marketing.
The Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, or Green Guides, provide marketers with insight regarding when environmental marketing claims are unfair or deceptive and therefore subject to enforcement under the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Earlier this year, Amazon, Leon Max, Macy’s and Sears, and Sears’ Kmart subsidiaries, agreed to pay $1.26 million in penalties to settle FTC charges the retailers misled customers by selling rayon fabrics labeled as made from bamboo fiber.
Regulatory controls on false advertising are a positive step, the report says. However, true sustainability will require less material consumption and, in turn, stronger overall limits on advertising.
Global expenditures on all advertising grew 3.3 percent in 2012 to $497.3 billion, with the US continuing to have the largest share of ad spending (see graphic). US advertising expenditures grew 4.3 percent in 2012 and are still nearly a third of the global total, according to the report. Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, had the fastest growth with ad spending there increasing 7.9 percent.