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Use of environmental claims in automobile The problems with green claims in automobile industry •The car industry have worked hard to develop more ”environmental friendly” cars

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  • Use of environmental claims in automobile industry

    Bente Øverli

    Head of section consumer ombudsman’s office in Norway

    [email protected]

  • The problems with green claims in automobile industry

    • The car industry have worked hard to develop more ”environmental friendly” cars

    • They really want to tell this to the consumers

    • Have seen an eagerness to use green claims for many years

  • What is an environmental claim?

    Use of statements, information, symbols and/or labelling schemes in marketing which give the impression that the company takes particular regard to the environment or that the product has such particular properties.

  • Does this have to be wrong?

    • No

    • It is positive that industry work hard to develop better products

    • To a certain extent, they should also be allowed to use this in their marketing

    • But;

  • But….

    • If they do this in a misleading way, they undermine what could be a good development, namely a healthy competition

    • And they do of course also mislead the consumers…

  • Claims used in 2007 in marketing

    • Toyota Prius: “The world’s most environmentally friendly car”

    • Opel: “Environmentally friendly engines”

    • Peugeot: “...the powerful and environmentally friendly Hdi turbodiesel engine...”

    • Suzuki: “The sales and environmental winner”

    • Smart: “Try out the world’s most environmentally friendly and fun city car...”

    • Toyota: “The world’s cleanest diesel engines”

    • Saab: “...environmentally friendly turbodiesel...”

  • “The world’s most environmentally friendly car”

  • “...environmentally friendly turbodiesel...”

  • • In other words – everyone was best on environment and everyone was environmentally friendly

    • This was, of course, not acceptable, and could undermine a good development and mislead the consumers

  • What is ”environmentally friendly”?

    • From cradle to grave

    • Production, choise of materials, energy consumption

    • Emission of locally and globally polluting substances

    • Noise

    • Recycling

    • Almost impossible to compare…

  • What is ”green”?

    • Neither green nor clean

    • A car cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others

  • What did we do?

    • Start handling cases – or invite to a round table?

    • We invited to a round table, where the car importers, environmental organisations and representatives from the Norwegian Directorate of Public Roads were present

  • What did we do?

    • This led to an agreement with the car industry : they all wanted to avoid the use of expressions such as environmentally friendly / green, and instead focus on neutral product information.


    • Less risk of misleading information

    • Fair competition

  • Agreement with the car industry

    • General expressions such as “environmentally friendly” or “green” can not used or be linked with the vehicle’s environmental properties.

    • This applies regardless of whether the

    expressions are used in isolation or with more detailed explanations in the marketing (Environmentally friendly/green because…..)

  • Guidelines

    • Recommends the use of objective claims about a vehicle’s environmental properties such as ”low emissions of…”

    • Guide the consumer to make safe choice depending on wishes and need

  • Guidelines

    • use of good environmental properties, like: – ”low emissions of…”

    – ”less use of…”

    – ”less noise….”

    …..can only be used if its possible to document that the vehicle is among the top third on the marked in respect of the properties being promoted

  • Guidelines

    • If the importers use pure product information/neutral information in brochure material or similar, the top third requirement does not apply

    • Typical: factual information about engine type, emissions, safety, technical data, fuel type, particel filter, noise level etc

  • Guidelines

    • Information or marketing? Must be assessed specifically. What’s the immediate impression?

  • Results

    • We have seen an improvement in the use of environmental claims

    • Not as specific, more general, like ” we spend billions every year in order to development engines with less emissions”

    • Great results! Nearly no breaches of agreement in 2009

  • Norwegian guidelines

    • index.gan?id=11040567&subid=0

    • Our newest:

    Guidelines on using claims such as ”climate neutral” etc in marketing