After being sued for falsely advertising its Windex products as environmentally friendly, S.C. Johnson recently settled two “greenwashing” class action suits filed in California and Wisconsin.
While financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, S.C. Johnson agreed to stop using its “Greenlist” logo on its products in its current form.
The lawsuits claimed that consumers were misled by the mark, believing that the Windex products had been certified as environmentally friendly by a third party, when in fact the mark is self-created. And despite the “Greenlist” logo, the company had not changed the ingredients of its Windex products, which contain environmentally harmful chemicals and pose a risk to children and wildlife, according to the complaint.
In a press release concerning the settlements, S.C. Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson said the company decided to settle for two reasons.
“First, while we believed we had a strong legal case, in retrospect we could have been more transparent about what the logo signified. Second, and very importantly, Greenlist is such a fundamentally sound and excellent process we use to green our products, that we didn’t want consumers to be confused about it due to a logo on one product,” he said.
The Greenlist logo was “intended to signify that the Windex products had achieved the highest internal ratings according to the company’s patented Greenlist process,” according to the release, and the company “proudly” continues to use the process to help green the company’s chemistry.
To read the complaint in Koh v. S.C. Johnson, click here.
Why it matters: Advertisers making environmental claims should be cautious when using marks or symbols that could be mistaken by consumers for third-party certifications. In addition to the S.C. Johnson settlements, Fiji Water recently faced a class action over similar allegations.