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Greenwashing Sins

Whitewashed Hogwash to Brainwash Eco-Concerned Consumers

— April 22, 2009 — Eco
Greenwashing isn’t cool, but being aware and informed about it is.

Greenwashing is a set of techniques that companies use to make themselves and their products seem environmentally sound. This ‘painting over’ of reality generally gives little thought to the actual greenness of the content, process, message, packaging, distribution, or the planet in general.

As public awareness of environmental concerns increases, so too does the cleverness with which non-greenies seek to mask their eco-destructive ways.

According to TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. and thestar.com, there are six greenwashing sins:

1. Hidden trade-offs: A product that’s eco-friendly in some ways, but not others, such as paper from sustainable forests that’s bleached by methods that release dioxin.

2. No proof: A claim that can’t be substantiated by easily available information or reliable certification, such as toilet paper claiming a certain percentage of recycled content, but without evidence.

3. Vagueness: A claim so poorly defined its meaning will likely be misunderstood. “All natural” isn’t always non-toxic, for instance.

4. Irrelevance: A claim that may be truthful but not helpful – CFC-free is a frequent claim, but CFCs are banned by law.

5. Fibbing: False claims, such as products claiming to be Energy Star-certified that are not.

6. Lesser of two evils: A claim true within a product’s category, but not for the category overall, such as a “fuel-efficient SUV.”
Trend Themes
1. Increasing Public Awareness on Greenwashing - Companies should be transparent and ethical in their environmental claims as consumers become more informed and concerned about the environment.
2. Need for Reliable Certification Systems - The rise of greenwashing highlights the need for reliable certification systems to provide evidence for eco-friendliness claims.
3. Growing Importance of Eco-friendliness - As environmental concerns increase, eco-friendliness will become a defining factor for companies to stay competitive.
Industry Implications
1. Marketing and Advertising - Marketing and advertising professionals should ensure that their client’s ‘green’ claims are accurate and backed up by reliable sources to maintain transparency and be considered authentic.
2. Consumer Goods - The consumer goods industry should prioritize green innovation and work towards obtaining reliable certification to satisfy consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.
3. Environmental Services - Environmental services providers have the opportunity to support companies in implementing transparent and environmentally sound practices which will lead to a reduction in greenwashing.
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