July 10, 2011

Understanding Green Branding

I recently wrote to you about my continued quest to become an ethical consumer, by discussing ways to Greener Your Shopping List. It was also important to understand green brands & their marketing verbiage while on this sustainable shopping mission.

"Green brands are those brands that consumers associate with environmental conservation and sustainable business practices." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green brands

We all know what a recycle symbol looks like & what the three R’s mean. I understood what organic & natural meant, or did I? When I started looking closer at the green items I was purchasing the labels started to get a little confusing. This one said all natural but not organic, that one was organic but made with only 70% organic ingredients. I could buy eggs that are organic but not cage free, but could I buy eggs that are cage free & not organic? To clear things up, it was important to stop & understand the verbiage of the green branding universe.

Here are some basics terms needed for understanding green product claims. You may already know them, but do you know what they mean on the products you buy?

Natural: is very broad term when it comes to food products available in our grocery stores. In fact, the FDA has not even established a formal definition of the word natural. It is used on packaging to attract health conscious consumers but doesn’t mean all the products ingredients will be natural. Best thing to do, read the ingredients list on the label. Vague terms like natural are not allowed on the ingredients list, with the exception natural flavorings.
Certified Organic: It is important to know that each country regulates their food certifications differently. In the US & Canada, they have passed organic legislation making it so the term “organic” may be only used by certified producers. Anyone involved in the food production process can be certified organic. That’s everyone from seed suppliers and farmers to retailers and restaurants.

In the US, the federal legislation defines three levels of organic. A company can use “100% organic” on their product label if the product is entirely made with organic ingredients & methods. Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word “organic.” Both these levels may also display the same USDA organic seal. The third level is for products who ingredient lists contains at least 70% organic ingredients and they may use “made with organic ingredients” on their packaging.

Fair Trade: Consumer product packaging from other countries can be labeled with this eco term. Fair Trade Certification is an organized movement aimed at helping developing countries improve their trading conditions & promote sustainability. The Fairtrade Certification system covers a growing range of products, including bananas, honey, coffee, oranges, cocoa, cotton, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, juices, and even wine. Fairtrade International (FLO), along with many others, helps to head up this international certification & reports in 2008 that an estimated 7.5 million producers and their families were benefiting from fair trade funded infrastructure, assistance and community development projects.

This movement has its critics & many see this label as a marketing ploy that does not challenge the world’s trading system. The best thing to do is research the specific products & companies you are buying from. There are a number of fair trade labels that can appear on packaging.

Besides understanding consumer products & their environmental impacts, knowledge of green branding gives us a way we can vote with our dollars for sustainable changes in our communities & world!


  1. This is awesome and I want to repost it to my blog. I would love to share this with others.

  2. You are welcome to repost this to your blog OurChildrensEarth! We are a subscriber & love getting your posts! Global Warning Ideas was one of our favorites. Thank you! :) ~Bee

  3. Oh yeah, I am glad you like them :)