In 2007 TerraChoice, a division of United Laboratories, published the results of their first “Sins of Greenwashing” study that measured the incidence of false and misleading environmental claims. The objective was to encourage legitimate “green” claims by calling attention to those that are not. They have since compiled several years of trending observations with the results of the most recent study released in October 2010.
According to the study, following are the seven most common Sins of Greenwashing being made by various companies and their products:
- Sin of the Hidden Trade-off: Calling a product “green” based on a very narrow set of attributes and not taking into consideration other issues related to the products’ production. For example: Paper made from a sustainably harvested forest that is then shipped around the world.
- Sin of No Proof: Making a claim that cannot be easily substantiated or proved—“Contains 99% post consumer waste.”
- Sin of Vagueness: A poorly defined claim or one that is generally misunderstood—“All Natural.”
- Sin of Irrelevance: Making a truthful claim, however one that is not important—“Cricket-free”
- Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: Energy-efficient Hummer?
- Sin of Fibbing: Basically a lie.
- Sin of Worshipping False Labels: Giving the impression that a claim is substantiated by a credible third-party when that party is not so credible—“Endorsed by the Association for Extremely Environmentally Friendly Products,” huh?
First the good news: Since 2009 the number of products claiming to be “green” has increased by 73%. The bad news is that more than 95% of those products commit at least one of the seven sins.
Over the next few weeks we will highlight some of the key findings of this interesting study. In the meantime, let us know if you come across any truly egregious examples of “green sins” in your marketplace.