Monday, May 19, 2008

Faking Green: Spotting the Greenwashers

Non-toxic. Chemical-free. Eco-safe. All natural. Every day, more and more companies roll out new products and services that claim to be eco-friendly. Some also claim their business operations are environmentally safe, but not necessarily their products. So how do we know who’s really green and who’s faking it? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to this question, but there are ways you can detect the signs of greenwashing.

Greenwashing are marketing practices that are meant to deliberately mislead consumers about a company’s environmental practices. According to a report released by Terrachoice Environmental Marketing, there are six sins and signs of greenwashing. These are:

Hidden trade off

Companies use this technique to highlight one eco-friendly attribute, and intentionally overlook other – and potentially more important – environmental concerns. This is the most common of all greenwashing practices.

No proof

This is the practice of using environmental claims that cannot be substantiated by supporting data, evidence or certification. The Terrachoice study found that 26% of environmental claims fall into this category.

Describes the use of broad and poorly defined terms like chemical-free or non-toxic which are both universally true and false depending on interpretation. For example, no product can claim to be chemical-free as nothing is really free of chemicals. Water is a chemical, and all plants, animals, and humans are made of chemicals as are all products.

Irrelevant environmental claims may be truthful but are unimportant and unhelpful. The most frequent example of an irrelevant claim relates to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been banned for almost 30 years.

Lesser of Two Evils
These are green claims that may be true for the product, but underplay the greater environmental impacts of the product category as a whole. Examples are organic cigarettes and green pesticides.

While rarely in use, this is the practice of making environmental claims that are completely false. The study shows that less than 1% of today’s products use this greenwashing technique.

At Guidance, we disapprove the practice of greenwashing. From following a green office etiquette, to using energy-efficient equipment and buying renewable energy credits to offset remaining carbon footprint, we take sustainability and social responsibility very seriously, and are committed to operating as an environmentally aware, 100% carbon neutral company.

So, if helping the environment and living a green lifestyle are important to you, consider doing a bit of research before shopping for products or services that claim to be green. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

Alejandra Espinosa
Guidance Green

Check out this month’s issue of Smart Business L.A., where Guidance CEO Jason Meugniot shares his thoughts and tips on reaping the benefits of sustainability. (“
Leaning Green”, Smart Business L.A.- May 2008)

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