"greenwashing" sins

Posted by redthil On 4/16/2009 02:11:00 PM

When i hear the word "sin", the first thing which comes to my mind is "Untouchability is a sin. Untouchability is a crime. Untouchability is inhuman." These are the three sentences which shows up in the Title Page of Any Text Book in TamilNadu (India). Thats fine, but whats this "greenwashing" sin???

Its election time, hence you will be familiar with the word "whitewashing" - a coordinated attempt to hide unpleasant facts, especially in a political context. In similar terms, "Greenwashing" is defined as "the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service."

Perfect example for this would be, these days, in this tough recession times, most of companies say that the company is "going green". But actually, they are into cost-cutting measures, which they claim otherwise. (Not all, but most companies do that) Though their intention is Cost-Cutting.

So, how can we say that, a company is greenwashing? According to An Environmental Marketing Company named "terraChoice", A company is greenwashing if it commits ANY of the following 7ven SINS:

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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.

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.

Sin of Fibbing

Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.

It also reports its Key Findings this year as:

  • Greenwashing is still abundant, with over 98% of ‘green’ products committing at least one of the Sins.
  • Kids (toys & baby products), cosmetics and cleaning products (diapers, toothpaste, and window cleaner, for example) are the three categories where green claims – and greenwashing – are most common.
  • Legitimate eco-labeling is almost twice as common in this study (23% of products) as it was last year (14% of products).
  • More products are making environmental claims. In stores that were visited in both 2007 and 2008/2009, the number of ‘green’ products increased by 40% to 176% per store.
  • Greenwashing is an international challenge.
Hope this post is just a starting for creating awareness among people on this on-growing sins committed be most of companies around the world.

References:
http://the-emergency-response-team.blogspot.com/2009/04/greenwashing.html
www.terrachoice.com , www.greenwashingindex.com , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwash

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redthil
Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.
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