‘Greenwashing’ – What is It?

Jul 30, 2009

All of us have done it in our lifetime – telling half-truths or portrayed something very convincingly that it is true, but really isn’t. Usually we do this to avoid confrontations, hurt feelings, or clean or fix a damaged relationship. But when companies do it, making marketing claims that a product is one thing, but it really isn’t – it’s called false advertising. Or with the recent surge of environmental awareness in environmentally friendly products it’s called ‘greenwashing’.

The amount of eco-friendly products and services in the market today is growing rapidly but how many of these products and services are really eco-friendly? Greenwashing is essentially false or misleading green marketing claims by companies. According to www.corpwatch.org greenwashing began in the 1960s and 1970s as the contemporary environmental movement built momentum and corporations greened up their images and advertising to appeal to the environmentalists.

So now you are wondering what’s the harm in greenwashing? Well the consequences can be significant. Well-intentioned consumers maybe misled into purchases that do not fulfill their environmental promise, not benefitting the consumer or environment. This leads to companies making these false claims to take market share away from legitimate eco-friendly companies, slowing the environmental benefit for all involved. And finally, it can lead to cynicism and doubt about all environmental claims.

There are websites to visit that will tell you what products are meeting the true eco-friendly status by examining the entire lifecycle of a product, which includes the environmental impacts associated with the collection of raw materials, manufacturing process, impacts of products during its use and the impacts when the product is ultimately recycled or disposed of. Before earning certification, an independent third-party auditor must verify that the products must reach the publically available standard. These websites are: www.ecologo.orgwww.chlorinefreeproducts.orgwww.greenseal.orgwww.green-e.orgwww.greenguard.org, and www.energystar.gov.

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