Identifying Greenwashing When You See it

In a recent story published by the Palm Beach Post, environmental marketing consultant provides some strong evidence of how to recognize and resist exaggerated green marketing claims that sound appealing yet do little good.

Scot Case of Philadelphia-based Terra Choice Environmental Marketing, Inc., said with the rise in ‘green’ marketing claims has come an increase in “greenwashing” – false or misleading green claims.

“When it comes to green products, buyers need to do their homework, and check out a company’s environmental track record, Case said. He advises looking for products certified by a qualified and independent third party such as EcoLogo or GreenSeal.”  Ed. note:  The certified biodgegradable logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute would be another good choice.

In 2007, his firm surveyed more than 1,000 consumer products making 1,753 environmental claims. All but one of the claims were either false or misleading, Case said.

For example:

• A dishwasher detergent boasts “100 percent recycled paper” packaging, and yet the container is plastic.
• A caulking product claimed to be “Energy Star” certified, but Energy Star doesn’t certify such products.

Case said the vast majority of companies are not following marketing guidelines provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission and Consumers Union.

“The gist of the guidelines is that folks should be making specific, accurate environmental claims and should have substantial proof to back up the claims,” Case said. “It is a very simple litmus test that most companies are failing miserably.”