We already are familiar with all the claims that eco-friendly products have to offer. They are safer, better for our health, better for the environment, and, well, just better, right?
Wrong. Environmental marketing agency TerraChoice has recently reported that over 98 % of products it surveyed committed at least one of the seven sins of greenwashing. “Of the 2,219 products claiming to green in the United States and Canada, only 25, or less than 2% of, products were found to be Sin-free,” they report on their website.
98%! Obviously, we must have been at least somewhat aware that the numbers would be, say, over half, but close to a hundred really has you thinking twice.
They found that children and baby toys/ products, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies were the primary offenders. They also pointed out that one of the most common problems was that the eco-issue was emphasized, but at the expense of other concerns, subsequently placed on the back burner.
These Seven Sins, ordered from most common to the least common include, directly from the report.
1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-off
A claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest. Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, such as greenhouse gas emissions, or chlorine use in bleaching may be equally important.
2. Sin of No Proof
An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Common examples are facial tissues or toilet tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing evidence.
3. Sin of Vagueness
A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. ‘All-natural’ is an example. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.
4. Sin of Worshiping False Labels
A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists; fake labels, in other words.
5. Sin of Irrelevance
An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. ‘CFC-free’ is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.
6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Organic cigarettes could be an example of this Sin, as might the fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicle.
7. Sin of Fibbing
Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.
We’d love your opinions on the report. Check out the site, give it a download, and please, comment below. We’ve a few of our own, but interested in yours to spark some discussion!
Visit www.sinsofgreenwashing.org to grab the report, and check out their findings.
Check out the interview at Greener Buildings, with Scott Case, Vice President of TerraChoice.
For more information, visit: TerraChoice Environmental Marketing
Image courtesy of hippyshopper.com