As the green wave of environmentally friendly products has swept the country, it’s not just trendy anymore to say “natural,” “organic” or “we care.”
It’s expected. It also is an exaggeration a lot of the time, says Scot Case, vice president of TerraChoice, a Philadelphia environmental marketing and consulting firm. After looking at 1,018 products - from toothpaste to caulk, shampoo to electronics - TerraChoice found that 99 percent made false claims, committing at least one of what Mr. Case calls the “six sins of greenwashing.”
“Greenwashing is absolutely a problem,” Mr. Case says. “It is particularly a challenge now because a lot of new companies are getting pressure to ‘go green,’ while at the same time a lot of new consumers are interested in going green. A lot of the time, you have the blind leading the blind.”
Among the six sins:
mThe sin of the hidden trade-off. Mr. Case points out that many electronics make environmental claims but contain hazardous materials. Fifty-seven percent of the products TerraChoice tested committed this sin.
“This is when products focus attention on one area - such as saying paper is from recycled content - but they leave out the part about air pollution and chemicals,” he says.
mThe sin of no proof, such as claiming to be organic but not having actual certification. Mr. Case found 454 products guilty of this.
mThe sin of vagueness, such as saying a product is “earth friendly.”
“What does that even mean?” Mr. Case asks. There are products that claim to be all-natural, which means they can contain natural but hazardous compounds, such as arsenic and formaldehyde, he points out.
mThe sin of irrelevance, claiming to be free of something harmful. That’s great, but that something usually was banned by the government decades ago.
mThe sin of fibbing. TerraChoice found several products that falsely claimed they were EnergyStar- or EcoL ogo-recognized.
mThe sin of the lesser of two evils - the oxymoron of advertising. Environmentally friendly pesticides, anyone? How about an organic cigarette?
“If consumers are familiar with the six sins, it will be a lot harder to be fooled,” says Mr. Case, who declined to name the brands he tested. “Consumers will be able to see through the green fog that has been created.”
Meanwhile, some consumers say they can see through the hype. Adecco USA Workplace Insight surveyed 2,281 adults in the spring, and 68 percent of them said they think most companies greenwash their environmental actions. Consumers in other countries are similarly skeptical. The Advertising Standards Authority in Britain received 561 complaints about potentially false green ads last year, up from 117 the previous year. Norway has banned all car ads from using the terms “green,” “environmentally friendly” and “clean” on the grounds that all cars contribute to global warming.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is reviewing its restrictions on environmental marketing claims for the first time since 1998. New guidelines and standards are expected this year in spite of complaints from trade and advertising groups, which claim tougher standards will harm business.View Entire Story
Karen Goldberg Goff has been a reporter at The Washington Times since 1992. She currently writes feature-length stories on a variety of topics, including family issues, pop culture, health, food and technology. Follow Karen on Twitter.
By Rand Paul
Obama acts as though we no longer have a Constitution
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
What does the middle-class conservative think about everything? Find out here.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc