The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined certain environmental claims made by S.C. Johnson & Son regarding its Ziploc Evolve storage bags could be supported but recommended that the company provide clearer information about its use of wind energy in the product’s production.

In its advertising for the Evolve line of storage bags, the company claimed that its new ultra light bags are “better for the environment,” are “made with 25% less plastic,” and are “made with wind energy.” The claims included an asterisk to a disclosure at the bottom of print ads and in television commercials, “Made with a combination of renewable energy and energy from traditional sources.”

Although the NAD concluded that Ziploc could substantiate the claims, it expressed concern that the ads also implied that the Evolve bags were manufactured wholly from wind energy. “Because the appeal of renewable energy is the promise of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it is important that advertisers avoid overstatement when making claims about the use of renewable energy,” the NAD said.

S.C. Johnson contended that “made with” claims are ubiquitous and that consumers would not be confused into believing that only wind energy was used to manufacture the bags.

But the NAD said that additional information was necessary because a reasonable consumer might conclude that the claim “made with wind energy” meant that it was produced entirely with clean or renewable energy – especially, the NAD said, as the claim was a dominant feature of the advertising campaign, and “is reinforced with images of windmills, vegetables, and wind-blown fields of green. In contrast, the disclosure language appears only in small type and, in the television commercial, appears only fleetingly.”

Therefore, NAD recommended that the “made with wind energy” claim be modified to expressly convey that Evolve bags are “made partially from wind energy, or that they are manufactured using wind energy provided the claim clearly communicates that using means a combination of wind and traditional energy sources.”

In its advertiser’s statement, S.C. Johnson said it disagreed with the NAD’s conclusion, but said it would take the concern into account in any future Ziploc Evolve advertising, noting that the commercial and print ads were no longer running.

To read the NAD’s press release, click here.

Why it matters: “When information is material and necessary for qualifying a claim it must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously in close proximity to the claim it is intended to qualify,” the NAD said. The decision also serves as a reminder to advertisers that environmental claims are on the NAD’s radar, especially in light of the Federal Trade Commission’s recently proposed update to the Green Guides. As the draft Green Guides would require that the nature of the renewable source was disclosed, and would likely require specific mention of fossil fuels that were used, a similar result would likely follow.