An investigation by the Commerce Commission has led to Dole being issued with a compliance notice advising they may be in breach of the Fair Trading Act on three separate counts, relating to the company’s Ethical Choice marketing scheme.
The advice to Dole included:
- Misleading use of standards, including obsolete ones, in ‘Ethical Choice’ marketing material
- Use of ‘Ethical Choice’ in a way consumers might consider implies independent certification by a third party, when Dole does not have independent certification of this kind.
- Use of ‘Ethical Choice’ in a way that might imply Dole is more ethical than competitors, when they have not demonstrated this.
Green marketing advisor and University tutor, Kath Dewar described the advice as a clear signal to Dole to ‘shape up or shut up’. “Shoppers are busy and need clear signals they can trust from companies,” says Dewar. “Greenwash tactics like ‘Ethical Choice’ are designed to manipulate people into thinking a product is more desirable than it is. It’s really a case of buyer beware with these kind of claims. That’s why independently evaluated schemes like Fair Trade, Environmental Choice and organic certifications are much more valuable as marketing tools than self-generated ‘badges’.”
Dewar expects Dole to cancel its ‘Ethical Choice’ marketing initiative following the Commerce Commission advice. “With Social Media these days global brands like Dole take a real hit when they’re caught greenwashing. People hate having their trust in brands betrayed. It’s just commercially not worth the risk of them continuing.”
Kath Dewar runs freelance marketing business GoodSense and is tutoring the MA Short Course: Marketing to Ethical Consumers on 27th August at the University of Auckland’s Business School. @GoodSenseMktg