Product ‘Greenwashing’

In an effort to capture a market share of the ‘green revolution’, more companies are branding their products to reflect their value to the green community.  However, the independent, not-for-profit organization Underwriters Laboratories (UL) initiated a study in 2007 to follow this trend of ‘greenwashing’.

Greenwashing refers to the propaganda and marketing used by companies to “educate” (used very loosely) consumers about what is means to be ‘green’.  Over the course of their study, UL noted seven different ‘sins’ of greenwashing:

  1. The Hidden Trade-Off
    1. Suggesting a product is ‘green’ based off one single attribute.
  2. No Proof
    1. Exactly how it sounds, claims with no verification
  3. Vagueness
    1. Use of poorly defined or broad terms
  4. Worshipping False Labels
    1. Blatant use of misleading labels
  5. Irrelevance
    1. Making claims that have already been enacted by law
  6. Lesser of Two Evils
    1. Drawing attention to the green aspect while distracting from more harmful effects of the product
  7. Fibbing
    1. Blatant lies about a product

The Underwriters Laboratory has been following trends related to the seven sins and has noticed both alarming and relieving statistics.  First, 2009 to 2010 saw a 73% increase in products making green claims.  However, they also found that 95% of these products commit at least one of the ‘sins of greenwashing’.  Proper and accurate green labeling was noted to increase from 1% of products to 2% in that same time period.

The green revolution is certainly relieving for us and the planet, but is it merely a marketing ploy?  Do companies really care about the environment or is it more important for the public believe the product is green than for it to actually be green?  Green products must be approached with caution although the mere fact of their availability is reassuring.  Keep consumer demand high for properly labelled green products and with consumer power we can change the world.

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