Monday, June 14, 2010

Greenwashing - BIC wins our Unethical Marketing Award of the Month

Who hasn't heard of BIC ? The company that brought us the disposable pens and razors.... you know, the clear ones with with blue lid that have long been a staple in our North American homes... That's right, we all know who they are. Unfortunately, their brand is so established that even with very irresponsible claims on their packaging, we aren't all aware of what they are doing.

With consumers deciding to purchase environmentally friendly products in unprecedented numbers, companies that simply don't measure up to consumer demands for smarter solutions are simply not earning consumer loyalty (translation: consumer dollars.) While more consumers are looking for environmentally responsible products, like refillable pens, many companies are feeling the pressure to make definite changes in the way that they do business.

Some companies rise to the occasion, while others (ahem - like BIC) decide to take the low-road and create elaborate marketing campaigns that look very "caring and green" without significantly changing the way that they do business. Instead of offering real solutions to non-biodegradable disposable razors and pens, and producing products that really walk the walk, they instead decided to fake the talk with fancy green packaging. Their claims that are, at best, deceptive.

"Made with 62% Pre-Consumer Recycled Plastic."

Any time you see pre-consumer waste claims on any packaging, your guard should go up. Using pre-consumer plastic is not really recycling at all. Scrap raw materials (left over cuts from other industrial processes) have always been used to make other things... this is frugal use of costly materials, not recycling in the traditional sense of the word. Pre-consumer recyclables have never been used in any product. They have never been purchased, and never discarded.  Instead of pre-consumer look for post-consumer.  Post consumer waste is, as it sounds, used after its first round of use. Post-consumer makes use of USED materials; materials that have been placed in the blue-box and picked up for recycling.

While I love the idea of eco-friendly pens, BIC has totally missed the mark with their ecolutions stationary line. Something with 100% recycled materials would work for me- something with refillable ink barrels and a perhaps a new type of ink that has no petroleum by-products. Something to that tune would warrant a "eco-solution" label like eco-lutions.

Their current campaign reeks of greenwashing (a type of unethical advertising campaign that attempts to convince consumers that the company is green and good, when they are not.)

For all of the above, BIC wins my greenwashing wah-wah award of the month - their "ecolutions" line wins an honourable mention for it's well designed and creatively worded eco-logo, and their package claims would entice any earth-conscious consumer to pick it up to purchase it, until reading the fine print and thinking critically about what they are really offering.

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