Skip to main content

Speaking Sustainably

Product labeling: Who's doing it right?

<p>A tube of toothpaste squeezes out gobs of good info.</p>

For quite some time now, our research has shown that consumers are heavily reliant on product packaging to help them determine if a product is green. From eco-labels to reading the ingredients, more and more consumers want to know not only what’s in a product, but how it’s made and how socially responsible the company is.

That’s a lot of information to convey on-pack – especially in light of regulatory requirements and other competing priorities.

So who’s doing it right?

My vote goes to Tom’s of Maine, the sustainable personal care products company partially owned by Colgate-Palmolive. Right there on the little tube of toothpaste is the company’s story in six easily understood bullet points, prominently featured on the back, nestled between all the stuff the federal government requires and all the stuff retailers require.

The six bullet points (in case you can’t see them in this photograph):

• Discuss the company’s ‘no animal testing’ policy

• Give consumers a web address so they can learn about the ingredients, their purpose and source

• State that sustainable practices are a company-wide priority

• Claim no artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, or preservatives

• Convey their commitment to maximizing recycled content and recyclability of their packaging

• Communicate their policy of donating 10% of profits to “human and environmental goodness.”

Often, when Shelton Group makes the recommendation to tell more of a company’s sustainability story on-pack (or at least get started in that direction) we’re met with great resistance. We hear cries of “There’s no room./The brand manager won’t allow it./Legal’s not comfortable with that.”You name it, we’ve heard them all.

So here’s the challenge: if Tom’s of Maine can do it on a toothpaste pack, chances are you can figure something out. They must have faced the same challenges you might be facing now. After all, they’re owned by a global corporation with legions of brand managers and in-house attorneys who are trained to abide by precedent. Their package is small – a single, simple tube. But somehow, they managed to get it done. And chances are, their consumers are grateful to have what they’ve been looking for – right there, on-pack, without having to make extra effort to open and check an app, cruise a complex website or rely on other consumer reviews.

So here’s to Tom’s of Maine for giving consumers what they want – a better, bigger glimpse into their sustainability story that’s convenient, meaningful and well done.

More on this topic