What is greenwashing? The term greenwashing is used when a business or organization claims to be “green” through their labeling or marketing approach and their product really isn’t that green. During the 1990’s a contemporary green consumer movement started in the United States sparking companies to greenwash their ads for additional sales. As the movement died out so did the unethical strategies. Unfortunately, today’s green movement is producing an uprising in greenwashing similar to the 1990s.
Greenwashing can damage the green market in several ways. It has been known to block quality green companies that are creating effective environmentally friendly products from getting their message out to the public due to constant advertisements pulling them in another direction. Greenwashing efforts confuse consumers with words such as natural, biodegradable, green, and recycled. They think they’re buying a product that will help the cause when in reality it will only add to the problem. With our planet in the state it is in we need the green market to be reliable and thriving. Greenwashing can hinder all of this progress.
The green marketing company known as TerraChoice Environmental Marketing conducted an investigation of over 1,000 products claiming to be eco-friendly. These commonly used items ranged from various cleaning supplies to personal care products. The results were shocking. Only one single item appeared to be completely green. This spawned the report entitled “The Six Sins of Greenwashing” discussing the state of the green marketplace. The sins or unethical practices used in marketing so-called environmentally conscious products were divided into six major categories from the items examined. So, what exactly are these sins that green consumers should be aware of? Listed below you will find the prevarications of products often used when advertisers wish to venture into the green demographic.
#1 Sin: Claiming an item is green because it has one quality environmental characteristic or feature such as an specific ingredient. 57% of products committed this sin.
#2 Sin: Simply saying a product is green with no certification or evidence to back up the claim to the consumer. 26% of products had this sin.
#3 Sin: Unclear claims that can be easily misinterpreted by the consumer. This sin was committed by 11% of items by using words like all natural or free of chemicals on labels.
#4 Sin: Using insignificant green claims that have no environmental impact. This is done by 4% of claims by mentioning an item is CFC-free which has been a law since the 80s and all products are free of that particular ingredient.
#5 Sin: Stating an environmental claim that is true to keep the consumer from finding out that the product as a whole can have a negative environmental impact. An estimated 1% of claims during the investigation made this sin.
#6 Sin: Completely false claims. Under 1% of claims comitted this sin.
Future of Green Market
For the future of the green market to continue to thrive and overcome the forces of greenwashing we must be proactive. It’s important for consumers to educate themselves on what qualifies a product to be green and read the labels carefully. As more major corporations “go green” the FTC, EPA, ISO, and Consumer Union should revise the environmental marketing guidelines and uphold companies to abide by them. We all must be proactive in maintaining the green marketplace. There’s a fantastic website dedicated in preventing greenwashing and allowing consumers to rate green ads. Their rating scale consists of numbers 1for good, 3 for pushing it, and 5 for total false advertising. Consumers need more websites like this to help guide them in the right direction when it comes to purchasing eco-friendly products. We can make green living a way of life if we’re all proactive together. If you’d like to check out the Greenwashing Ads website click here