Bausch & Lomb has just launched a new contact lens solution brand targeting green-conscious consumers – Biotrue. The minty fresh packaging, however, appears to be the only "green" feature of the brand, prompting the New York Times to take issue with its marketing claims.
Biotrue is billed as the first lens solution that comes close to recreating the tears that occur naturally in eyes. As noted in a science class-style video explaining the biology of the eye, B&L is not so subtly pushing a healthy message to consumers.
“Inspired by the biology of your eyes, it’s the only solution with the same pH and the same lubricant found naturally in your eyes, so you’ll find it easier on them,” claims an image spot created by TM Advertising, part of the Interpublic Group.
As for the packaging, the carton reads: “Bausch & Lomb cares about the environment. This carton and bottle are 100 percent recyclable.”
Further claims are that “Biotrue goes beyond cleaning.” It uses hyaluronan, a substance with a pH level of 7.5 – the center of the healthy tears range, originally created for eye surgery. No other lens solution in the U.S. uses hyaluronan, according to the company.
Herein lies the rub. Greener Choices director Urvashi Rangan tells the New York Times the claim is “truthful but misleading.”
“If Bausch & Lomb is using virgin fiber to make a cardboard box, then they’re using trees, and that isn’t green,” explains Rangan. GreenerChoices.org is owned by Consumer Reports, and focuses on evaluating just such environmental claims.
Bausch & Lomb VP brand marketing, Lisa VanDeMark, says Biotrue “emerged from two megatrends … bio-inspired products that look to nature for their best ideas” and the growing clout of Lohas (lifestyles of health and sustainability) consumers who are environmentally savvy in their purchases.
The Lohas market is estimated at 19% of U.S adults with $300 billion spent on sustainable goods and services in 2008, according to the Natural Marketing Institute.
Ted Ning, executive director of the Lohas Forum feels “It’s a very meager effort to try to capitalize on green intentions, and I kind of consider that greenwashing.”
The Triple Pundit blog feels that's unfair because “A greenwashing label is earned when a company overstates its products' 'eco' benefits. Bausch & Lomb does not cross this line.”
Bausch & Lomb’s Chris Huels, senior product manager, commented that Biotrue is targeting the Lohas segment as “having an affinity” for products that mimic nature. VanDeMark adds: “Our brand character, if you will, is of being honest brands, being transparent brands, and I do think it helps us deliver on that.”
The company reached a nadir in 2006 with a massive recall of contact lens solution, ReNu With MoistureLoc, blamed for eye infections. They paid out $250 million to settle some 600 lawsuits.
The ad campaign for Biotrue begins running widely August 16. Perhaps then we’ll see more clearly through the muddle of claims and counterclaims surrounding the product’s true nature. Green or greenwashing? The eyes have it!