Washing powder keg explodes as ecostore takes Herald to task

It seems the print media’s dastardly scheme to get aggrieved companies to take out full page ads is working: after Air New Zealand responded to a Listener editorial with a cheeky video featuring Rob Fyfe, a dedicated website and a few full-pagers, ecostore has decided to follow suit, joining the reactionary party last weekend after an article in the Herald about washing powder ruffled its eco-feathers. In a story about misleading packaging claims regarding the PH levels of All Natural washing powder was a paragraph about ecostore laundry powder that said it had a pH of 11.8 according to Consumer NZ tests and that “it was a hazard under ERMA rules and needed child-proof packaging”. It also said that the company had reformulated its powder to meet national standards.

Ecostore’s marketing manager Melissa Fletcher says the gang was “quite dismayed” about the claims and the fact that the Herald ran it without talking to ecostore. So, having stood firm on its eco-credentials for over 18 years, it decided to act quickly with the help of its agency Special Group and its PR agency Wright communications by making a stand and trying to set the record straight.

“We wanted to nip it in the bud and the only way to do that was to go big and take out a full page ad.”

She admits it’s a slightly perverse dance when the Herald can run what she claims is a misleading article and then get $30,000 plus from an aggrieved party that wants to respond. But Ecostore felt so strongly about it and stands by its products 100 percent so it needed to splurge and act fast to get the point across that it doesn’t use petrochemicals or cheap bulking agents, and that it only uses all natural ingredients.

Originally, a story about All Natural appeared in Consumer magazine in May (it appeared in the Sunday Star Times soon after, so it’s also old news) and the ecostore folks were also alerted to a discrepancy in its PH labelling. Obviously, as it trades on its reputation, its honesty and its integrity, Fletcher says the company remedied the oversight independently as soon as it found out about it.

“That was an honest mistake. We were using a PH number that was fractionally incorrect [laundry powders in New Zealand are supposed to have a pH of 11.5 and ecostore’s was 11.8], she says. But that’s only part of the story: when it comes to washing powders, she says it’s about total alkalinity. And that is kept low by using good quality, natural and more expensive ingredients.

Fletcher says ecostore does feel repercussions from other greenwashing companies, as consumers, some of whom may have been burned before, are often quite cynical when it comes green claims. For example, terms like biodegradable, she says, are quite vague. Technically nuclear waste is biodegradable if you wait millions of years. So who can you believe? Well, given ecostore has been in this game for such a long time, Fletcher thinks it should be asked when there’s a need to weed the truth from the porkies.

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