NAD recommends Sherwin-Williams modify ‘no-VOC’ claims

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Sherwin-Williams modify or discontinue advertising claims that its Harmony paint line is completely free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The NAD, which is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, reviewed claims made by Sherwin-Williams in Web and print advertising following a challenge by Benjamin Moore & Co.

Specifically, Benjamin Moore challenged Sherwin-Williams’ claims of “No-VOC formula,” “Zero-VOC formula,” and “Formulated without silica and without VOCs for better indoor air quality.”

The NAD also reviewed the implied claim that the full line of Sherwin-Williams Harmony paints, including base paint and paint containing color, contain no VOCs.

For purposes of this challenge only, both the NAD and Benjamin Moore agreed that a “zero-VOC” or “no-VOC” claim is substantiated if the VOC content of the paint contains less than 5.0 grams per liter VOC.

The NAD said that based on Sherwin-William’s Material Safety Data Sheets and Technical Data Sheets, certain colors in its Harmony line would exceed the 5.0 g/L VOC threshold when its deep base paint was mixed with conventional colorants, but the majority of the paints in its Harmony line would yield less than 5.0 g/L.

The NAD also reviewed the results of testing commissioned by Benjamin Moore on selected colors of Harmony paints. According to those tests, after the addition of conventional colorants to Sherwin-Williams’ deep base paint, VOC levels ranged from 42 to 112 g/L for “Coating” VOCs.

In response, Sherwin-Williams questioned the testing and maintained that because the majority of its paints in the Harmony line fall below the 5.0 g/L threshold, its zero-VOC claims are substantiated as to its entire line of Harmony paints.  

As a result, the NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued or modified to clearly convey to consumers that Harmony deep base paint may result in higher levels of VOCs for some colors.

According to a release by NAD, Sherwin-Williams responded to the recommendation by saying the company “is disappointed that the NAD did not agree with its position that both consumers and the industry understand zero-VOC claims to pertain only to the majority of colors in a paint line, as opposed to being a 100% ‘line claim.’ However, out of respect for the self-regulatory process, Sherwin-Williams will accept the NAD’s decision and will take the NAD’s findings into consideration in its future advertising for Harmony.”