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Continuing with the theme of socially-responsible food labels, I found my own example of risky company behavior. This weekend, I bought a bag of plantain chips, partially because of the “CO2 Negative” label on the bag. The photo accompanying this blog is the label that caught my attention. On the back of the bag, the label was repeated next to a QR code with this statement:

“We are certified CO2 negative, which means that [brand name] snacks allow you to enjoy each crisp chip while actively reducing your carbon footprint.”

I tried the QR code to obtain more information about the CO2 negative claim and the certification mechanism used – something a reasonable customer would probably do, given that is purpose of a QR code. It was nonfunctional, so I went to the company website. No narrative explanation or description was available after a few minutes of searching, but I found this confusing and ambiguous image with no context or additional explanation:

This is a clear example of how not to make product sustainability claims: using overly aggressive words about unsubstantiated product attributes, trying to create credibility by claiming the use of a certification mechanism, having a non-functioning QR code, and hanging the company reputation on a single, incomprehensible image.

Companies need to be very careful in making product sustainability claims, as well as how they present backup information on their website. It would be wrong to underestimate the importance of designing packaging, writing copy or putting supporting or clarifying information on the website. Reasonable consumers are likely to check out product claims, especially when you provide QR codes that are invitations to do so.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile