what is greenwashing all about

14 Aug
2009

Greenwashing is an offshoot of whitewashing, a term that describes the act of concealing or hiding in a deceptive manner to give the appearance of clean. So what is greenwashing all about? It is the art of companies depicting a green action when the motive is to make the consumer think they are looking after the environment.

A direct example of greenwashing is when a large company, let’s say an office shuts off the power and encourages reduction in the use of lighting and electricity, but the motive is because they have an agenda to reduce the costs. They then announce it as a gimmick to offer good PR for the organization. They don’t actually care about the environment and the staff.

This would be amplified if they donate to a social cause, let’s say $1 million dollars to help after school programs for children (in a large North American city). They get a tax break and to further rub salt in the wound, they have factories in a third world country that pay $0.10, that’s right ten cents an hour, with children as little as 6 years old working there, some for as many as 20 hours a day. This is not a very socially conscious company, is it?

Seven Sins of Greenwashing

In 2007, Terrachoice did a survey of over 1000 common consumer products. Only one out of the whole group was telling the truth. Out of this they came up with the six sins of greenwashing, which they have since changed to seven. Here’s the list:

  1. Sin of Hidden Trade-off: a product might be made from recycled material but the energy used and the transportation could far outweigh the green factor
  2. Sin of No Proof: products that claim to be made in a way but have no validation or proof.
  3. Sin of Vagueness: A claim that means nothing, for example, arsenic or mercury is “Natural”, but would you want it in one of your products. So “All Natural” may not be a good thing.
  4. Sin of Worshipping False Labels: Were an impression of sponsorship is given to make them appear green friendly.
  5. Sin of Irrelevance: When a company advertises something that is the law anyway. For example, “CFC free”, ozone is banned anyway. To display how green they are because they have been legislated to stop is nothing more than a public relations gimmick.
  6. Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils: The best example “natural cigarettes” – still not good for you.
  7. Sin of Fibbing: Just a plain old lie.

If you want to change things, consumers have to make corporations accountable and corporations have to care and make an effort to put changes in place that are honest and good for the consumer and environment. If you see something that you think is wrong, speak up about it, call the consumer board or go public. These actions can save lives, the environment and create a better all around business environment and economy.

One way to stop greenwashing is to look at the source. Advertising is a predominate factor in how we look at things. Though methods of advertising are changing and certainly where things are being advertised (the web versus television for example), the end result is to try and get you to form an opinion of a product, company, service or even a politician. If the facts are twisted but you do no research to verify, you may think something, when the exact opposite is true.

Stop taking things for granted. Do your own research. Make up your own mind. Turn the advertising off. Don’t support the machine. If you stop feeding it, then the changes will have to take place. With money as a motivator, and greed as a driver, take the time to educate yourself and make smarter choices, with the green movement upon us, everyone is jumping on board and not all the pages are the same color green.

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1 Response to what is greenwashing all about

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Simple Advantages To Going Green

November 17th, 2009 at 6:03 am

[…] Competitive advantage for businesses – people now want to buy green but watch out for green washing. […]

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