GREEN SEAL TRIES TO TAKE ROOT

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Green Seal has begun a major public service push to make consumers aware of its environmental seal of approval program-but the effort may be too little, too late.

When Earth Day arrives April 22, marketers of more than a dozen consumer products are expected to announce their goods will carry the non-profit group's seal, a program that has been in the works for more than four years.

Green Seal spent that time setting environmental standards in 45 product categories. To earn the seal, a product must meet a broad set of criteria.

To date, just nine companies have received the seal, including Clean Air Cabs, GE Lighting and Lights of America. All nine are expected to put the Green Seal on their products, though none has used it in advertising yet.

In another effort, Scientific Certification Systems has verified single claims, mainly on recycled content, for 1,100 products from 130 companies since 1990. Since August, 40 products from 12 companies have been issued Environmental Report Cards, measuring a product's total environmental impact.

"It's kind of like the ship left the dock three years ago," said Mark Eisen, manager of environmental marketing for Home Depot. Currently, Home Depot will only use green claims from products certified by Scientific Certification Systems but is considering Green Seal.

Getting an environmentally sound stamp isn't cheap. Green Seal certification costs about $3,000 for the first product and about $1,100 for each additional product from the same company.

Scientific Certification Systems charges $3,000 to $5,000 to certify one claim for a product and $500 to $1,000 for additional products. The Environmental Report Card costs a company $20,000 to $50,000.

Green Seal thinks its standards are better because a product is judged on a wide array of guidelines, and it only awards the seal to products meeting those criteria. Green Seal focuses "on the measure of environmental damage that scientists have found to be most important in certain product categories," said Norman Dean, president.

Scientific Certification Systems thinks its Environmental Report Card, which any company can receive, is preferable because it allows consumers to compare competing evaluated products.

"We're trying to be the environmental equivalent of a nutrition label and disclose the amount of resources depleted," said Stan Rhodes, president.

Marketers are left to choose which program meets their needs.

Spray paint marketer Plasti-Kote opted to go with Scientific Certification Systems more than two years ago because its programs were already running.

"We felt [SCS] was a very valid program [that gives] quantitative information on the environmental advantages of our products," said Chris McKenna, exec VP-marketing for Plasti-Kote, which had the company certify a low volatile organic compound claim and has Environmental Report Cards for four lines.

"We saw a fair amount of redundancy. We do not see the value in having two seals," said Gary Gumz, manager of trade relations for GE Lighting, which has received the Green Seal for compact fluorescent lighting.

Green Seal has been busily sending out public service advertising but with no success so far.

In February, public service print ads went to about 50 consumer and environmental magazines to back the seal's introduction, but none of the ads from DDB Needham Worldwide, Los Angeles, and Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, have been placed yet. A $10,000 print campaign aimed at the paper trade supports, from Green Team Advertising, Bayside, N.Y.

In May or June, Green Seal will test placing two 30-second TV PSAs in California supporting Green Seal's introduction, handled by Cole & Weber, Seattle, and GLG, Santa Monica, Calif.

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