"Natural" strikes again - and someone calls it out

Amy Tennery at Slate's "The Big Money" highlights "Green claims that make us see red."

She must be reading Heidi's posts, because she talks the same talk about Clorox "Green Works" products and sends people to Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database as she rails about Sephora's "Natural Standards." They both make good use of the wonderful word "natural." sigh.

I especially liked her explanation of the (environmental) harm of hand sanitizers, a new explanation to me.

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I personally like Ms. Buttimer's response but I have not read Tennery's piece. I tend to agree with most of GreenWorks' rebuttal statements although there is still a pall of unease about cause marketing whereby private products carry non-profit labels. A whole lotta States' Attorneys General thought so as well.

GreenWorks may be suffering a smack down because so many other companies routinely abuse the "natural" label in more nefarious products so there is a high level of skepticism about products with this claim.

It's undeniable that nature sells as Janne notes but in this case, GreenWorks is doing an admirable job... better than most of their competitors. Tennery and I probably agree on the abuse of the "natural sell" but differ in the indictment of this particular product line.

Following is a response posted by Ketchum on behalf of The Clorox Company:

On behalf of The Clorox Company, I would like to respond to Amy Tennery’s article titled “The Four Biggest Enviro-Scams,” in which she criticizes the Green Works brand. It is our belief that Ms. Tennery misinterpreted key product information about Green Works Natural Cleaners, and I would like to provide the following facts to put her conclusions into context.

First of all, the Green Works brand is committed to using the highest level of natural ingredients in each product. The majority of Green Works natural products are recognized by the EPA’s Design for Environment program for using safe chemistry, and we are working with the EPA to get the remainder of our products in the program.

Since our launch, the Green Works brand has been transparent in our labeling of ingredients, our definition of natural and the percentage of natural ingredients in our formulas (95+ percent). In fact, to the best of our knowledge, no other company making natural household cleaning products lists, on label, the percentage levels of natural ingredients in their natural products. In terms of transparency, the Green Works brand not only lists all our ingredients on labels and on our web site but we have broadly communicated our belief that natural products should:

o Be made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients
o Be made with biodegradable cleaning ingredients
o Not be tested on animals

Tennery is quick to dismiss the natural profile of an ingredient, implying that it’s more important to be environmentally sustainable. We believe both are important, which is why we are confident in the ingredient choices we have made for our formulas.

Corn-based ethanol – Tennery states that the environmental community has targeted corn-based ethanol for being “neither cost effective nor eco-friendly,” but these complaints are for using corn-based ethanol as a fuel source. This has nothing to do with how we use corn-based ethanol in Green Works products. From our standpoint, we would rather use a plant-based ethanol in our products than a similar petrochemical-based ingredient.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Tennery states “many items in the Green Works line” contain SLS. Only Green Works Natural Dishwashing Liquid and Green Works Natural Dilutable Cleaner contain this ingredient. SLS can be an irritant at high concentration levels -- similar to other natural ingredients, such as citric acid (lemons) or acetic acid (vinegar). As an ingredient in our dishwashing liquid and our dilutable cleaner, SLS is present at low levels and is safe for the consumer.

We are actively continuing to evolve the Green Works brand – from the formulas (as natural options become more widely available), and to packaging (going towards 100% PCR).

Finally, Tennery comments about our “perplexing” relationship with Sierra Club. From our standpoint, it’s pretty straightforward. The Green Works brand wanted to contribute to environmental conservation by supporting one of the largest, grassroots organizations in the U.S. We are proud to continue our financial support of Sierra Club today.

The Green Works brand stands for powerful cleaning done naturally and we have stayed true to that promise. Our proposition is aimed at the mainstream consumer who is interested in natural products that clean, are affordable and easily accessible. We are achieving our goal to mainstream natural cleaning and are proud of our leadership position in the Natural Cleaning Category.


Jessica Buttimer
Global Domain Leader, Green Works

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