Greenwash is now a criminal act, brands beware!

Neil Andrew of One Food took greenwash a bit to far when he falsely
claimed to be selling organic products (salmon). Now big brands beware, Andrew
has just got banged away in prison for 27 months. Seems Northamptonshire County
Council trading standards and the Food Standards Agency don’t mess about when
it comes to greenwash. Lying about your green credentials to sell things is
fraud. This is the first time someone’s gone to jail but it symbolises how
serious organisations are starting to take lying. So could all those greenwash
ads for cars, lagers, petrol and many other products results in a few more
company chairmen doing porridge?

Organic food sales have slumped, no surprise in a recession. Firstly
organics are bought by many because they see them as quality and tasting better
rather than planet saving (sorry my green friends but that’s the way it is).
The real problem is greed, the supermarkets have been over pricing organics for
too long and given the recession they are first on the list of cutbacks.

As an ad on LBC suggests, when people are worried about their jobs,
savings and their home, trying to convince them they need to worry about the
planet is a non starter.

Yeo Valley, Tesco, Green & Blacks and a few others have been
reported to be considering pooling budget together to run an ad campaign
through the Organic Trade Board to try and reverse flagging sales. The solution
is simple, stop supermarkets over charging. I was called up by the BBC last week
to comment on this, “did I think an ad campaign would reverse sales”. “No “ I

Yes it could maybe if the strategy was dead right, the supermarkets
played ball and the media plan was right. But history tells you that these
brands will end up at the wrong agency (they’ll go for a safe big name), get
the wrong advice, a bland media plan and spend their money the wrong way.
Cynical maybe, but there are so many badly marketed green campaigns about, just
look at Stella (all my green friends think it’s a cynical campaign).

An interesting point, in the survey we carried out into ethical buying
of supermarket products (full details and results in the book Ethical Marketing
& the New Consumer) most people didn’t recognise the organics symbol. Well
it is terrible, the Soil Association really needs to have it redesigned, the
Tesco’s one is far better.

However, green cleaning products are suffering, the only exception being
recycled paper kitchen towels (well they are cheaper than posh ones). The cause
is price slashing. Consumers are faced with a dilemma, save money of save the
planet… umm… she thinks… save money. This is not helped by the fact that some
green cleaners don’t clean as well. Again this all comes down to the same
factor, greedy supermarkets charging too much.

Green legislation is a big worry for supermarkets, especially when it
comes to plastic bags. Of course no one wants knee jerk legislation from ill
informed politicians, more interested in saving face than saving the planet.
Packaging is still high on the agenda and challenges many brands. Kerrygold is
leading the food field with massive savings on packaging, over 90 tonnes
annually. But Britvic’s J20 outdoes Kerrygold as it is launching a lighter
bottle that could result in a saving of
4,000 tonnes, a 10% reduction on 40,000 tonnes of glass it produces.

Whereas organics may be suffering local isn’t. Groups like Spar have
seen a 5.2% rise in sales. However, this is not enough, the Federation of
Wholesale Distributors has been trying to get people to shop local by dumping
the car. The ‘My Shop Is Your Shop’ campaign is a good idea but the cheesy
title feels like it was dreamt up in a PR agency.


    What a difference a label makes. Waitrose is killing off labels on egg boxes and saving 35 tonnes a year.

  • Max Harrington

    This could open up a whole new debate, is telling lies in advertising fraud? On one level it is. The other legal area is the Sale of Goods act which states things must be as described, how often are things not? Could agencies also be locked up? Many promise more than they deliver. What about clients who run false pitches? Isn’t that a kind of fraud?

  • Kevin Gordon

    There’s an interesting green conundrum here.

    Is it more morally correct to print contents on egg boxes or save 35 tonnes per year, and is it necessary to describe everything in a product to make it legal?

    I know there are moves afoot to produce a Cancer-Free cigarette.
    When it arrives, should you be allowed to smoke it in a pub?

    The erosion of human rites has gone hand in hand with corporations being handcuffed to be politically correct to the point where you can’t even say “You’d be mental not to go to a certain garage in Brighton”…because it may upset a few mental patients.

    I heard a story of someone recently suffering memory loss watching TV and laughing when the captain in an old black and white film was caught in the act himself.

    Where will it all end?
    Advertisers making oblique films in Iceland to avoid “sue your ass” lawsuits?

  • Hugo Bennett

    Sounds like you’ve really tried to get under the skin of these brands and their attempt to try a different marketing tack and not just churn out tired old stereotypes.

    But I agree that this probably hasn’t been executed in the most effective manner. Though I admire the attempt from Bovril to engage an online audience. Other similar brands may not have been so brave.

    This article would be more interesting if there was an actual attempt to analyse how the campaign was run and what supporting media was used. How were the National Trust’s 3.8 million members (and 35,000 Facebook fans) targeted? And with just over 5,000 Bovril Facebook fans, maybe 22,000 responses is a reasonable return?

    The arrogant and patronising approach taken to write the above 239 words (and I’ve been generous and included the witty comments beneath the visuals) is obvious. Perhaps posting between the hours of midnight and 6:00am should be banned?

    • ChrisJReed

      Thanks for responding Hugo but as the NT have 4 million members, 22,000 responses is pathetic! Also as you may not have noticed i live in Asia and run a partnership marketing across Asia Pacific, hence the timeline – we’re 7 hours ahead of you!