S.C. Johnson Settles Greenlist Greenwashing Suits

S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. has announced that it has settled two Federal class action lawsuits brought against it, one in California and one in Wisconsin, related to the use of its GREENLIST mark (shown below) on bottles of its Windex®-brand cleaning products.


The suits alleged that the presence of the mark misled consumers into believing that the products had been certified as environmentally-friendly by an objective third-party, when in fact the GREENLIST mark is not a certification mark at all but rather S.C. Johnson’s own trademark for use on its own products. Take a look below at the logo and how it appeared on the product. Would you have thought you were looking at a certification?


For its part, S.C. Johnson maintains that the mark simply signifies that the product has achieved a green rating in a self-imposed and self-operated rating system, and that it is entitled to use the mark in that manner.  It also maintains that the product ingredients are in fact not harmful to the environment. However, the company settled the suit, acknowledging that it “could have been more transparent about what the logo signified.”  The exact terms of the settlement are confidential, but S.C. Johnson will discontinue use of the GREENLIST logo on Windex bottles and will pay an undisclosed sum of money.


The lesson here for green advertisers is that they should take care that their own marks cannot reasonably be mistaken for third-party certifications. This can be accomplished both by avoiding logos that appear like seals, and through highly-visible disclosure of the nature of any “internal” rating system vs. a true certification.


On a side note, S.C. Johnson has just started a trial program for refillable Windex, which, if successful, will cut down significantly on product packaging. However, it remains to be seen in consumers will be willing to make the switch.

Mark Image  



Comments are closed.