BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Examines Clorox ‘Green Works’ Claims, Following Challenge by Method Products

New York, New York – Oct. 27, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Clorox discontinue advertising claims that suggest the company’s “Green Works Natural Cleaning Wipes,” also disinfect. NAD further noted its appreciation that Clorox discontinued a biodegradability claim for the product.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined advertising for the product following a challenge by Method Products, Inc., a competing maker of natural cleaning products.

NAD examined television advertising, print advertising and product labeling for Green Works Natural Cleaning Wipes.   Claims at issue included:

  • “99% natural and biodegradable.” 
  • “[C]leans with the power of Clorox.”
  • “[S]ince Green Works products are made by Clorox, they clean with the power you’d expect.”

NAD noted in its decision that it recently has had the opportunity to review several cases involving advertising for products that claim to be “biodegradable.”  The difficulty, NAD noted, is in establishing how various claims of “biodegradation” are understood by consumers and how such claims can be properly substantiated. 

NAD noted that for most products that enter the solid waste stream, “customary disposal” typically means disposal in a landfill, degradation is slow and uncertain.

Although the advertiser presented evidence in support of its biodegradability claim, Clorox asserted that it would permanently discontinue the claim as it transitions to new packaging. NAD noted that it appreciated the advertiser’s decision to discontinue its “biodegradable” claim in favor of a “compostable” claim.

Regarding the implied claim that Green Works All Purpose Cleaner “disinfects,” NAD determined that consumer perception evidence presented by the challenger and brand-equity evidence offered by the advertiser were both of limited value.

In the absence of reliable consumer perception evidence, NAD steps into the shoes of the consumer and uses its own experienced judgment to determine the reasonable messages conveyed by the advertising. 

The advertiser maintained that “cleaning power” is understood as the product’s performance in cleaning messes and removing stains and dirt. However, NAD determined that it would be reasonable for consumers to also perceive the “power of Clorox” to refer to killing bacteria, i.e., disinfecting.  NAD, therefore recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “cleans with the power of Clorox” and modify its advertising to avoid conveying the message that Clorox Green Works wipes will disinfect.

NAD drew a distinction between the promotion of “Clorox” as a product that might reasonably be associated with bleach or disinfectant capability and the promotion of “Clorox” as a company and market leader.  NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “Cleans with the Power of Clorox” to avoid conveying the message that Green Works, a natural product that does not disinfect, has disinfectant capability.  NAD determined however, that because the claims in television commercial and product label distinguish the company “Clorox” from a product associated with disinfectant, the advertising those contexts did not convey a message of disinfection and was adequately substantiated.

In its advertiser’s statement, Clorox said that it “appreciates NAD’s acknowledgment that Clorox is entitled to use its name in promoting its Green Works line, and that the phrase ‘cleans with the power you expect [from Clorox],’ in the context of the Green Works product label and television commercial, is a permissible expression of corporate pride.”

Clorox disagreed with NAD’s findings regarding the print ad for Green Works wipes. The company noted, however, that it would not appeal NAD’s decision.