Wednesday, June 25, 2008

“Six Sins of Greenwashing™”

These days I came across the “Six Sins of Greenwashing™ ” and I have found it very interesting to share it. TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. - an environmental consulting agency based in Canada surveyed 1,018 consumer products affirming 1,753 environmental claims and 99% of the products were found to have claims that mislead the consumers.

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off (57%) "Focus" on the positive (and ignore the bad details): A product is “green” based on a single environmental attribute (the recycled content of paper, for example) or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes (recycled content and chlorine free bleaching) without attention to other important, or perhaps more important, environmental issues (such as energy, global warming, water, and forestry impacts of paper). Examples: paper, household insulation products, office technology, ink cartridges, laundry detergents, dish detergent, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, markers, flooring laminate, bags, multi-purpose cleaners, wood panels, and pesticides.

Sin of No Proof (26%) "Believe": Any environmental claim that cannot be validated by easily accessible supporting information, or by a reliable third-party certification. Examples: household lamps and lights, personal care products, facial tissues and paper towels.

Sin of Vagueness (11%) "Buzz-word du jour": Claims that are so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer such as: “Chemical-free” (everything is made of chemicals), “Non-toxic” (everything can be toxic), “All Natural” (many natural elements are poisonous like arsenic), “Green”, “Environmentally friendly”, and “Eco-conscious” (meaningless without further explanation). Examples: Garden insecticides promoted as “chemical-free”, “Natural” hair mousse, kitchen (wax) paper that claims “recycled content”, general purpose household cleaners that claim to be “non-toxic” without explanation or third-party substantiation.

Sin of Irrelevance (4%) "Meat-free vegetables": Environmental claims that are truthful but unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. The most frequent irrelevant claim is CFC-free (chlorofluorocarbons) which is legally banned for almost 30 years. Examples: CFC-free insecticides, CFC-free lubricants, CFC-free oven cleaners, CFC-free window cleaners, CFC-free disinfectants.

Sin of Fibbing (1%) "Let's put some lipstick on this pig": Environmental claims that are false. Examples: “Certified Organic”, (without providing the certification) found on many shampoos; “Energy Star” registered (the Energy Star website suggests this is false); “100% recycled paper” on containers made from plastic found on a dishwasher detergent.

Sin of Lesser of Two Evils (1%) "Organic death sentence": “Green” claims that may be true within the product category, but at risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Examples: Organic cigarettes (although this may be true, the consumer should be discouraged to smoke); “Green” insecticides and herbicides. This is a great list of white lies (or is it green lies?) that reminded me of this pillow which is guilty on soo many counts... I wish all marketing has as much common sense as the 'Greenwashing' article.

If you want to weed out the buzz from the real green products, you can:

- keep in mind the six sins when you are purchasing products with environmental claims.
- be aware of the labels of the products. I posted earlier lists of cosmetic, house cleaning products, and food labels with a description for each.
- read reviews or write reviews for both good and bad experiences. - read my blog daily (it's green, really :)

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