The flap between Dell and Apple last week over MacBook’s marketing was further proof that there’s a lot of confusion right now over what classifies as “green” and what doesn’t. The problem is pervasive and extends far beyond the competing, and sometimes dubious, environmental claims of computer manufacturers. In fact, during a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this month, Scot Case, the Vice President of TerraChoice, testified that of all the products claiming to be eco-friendly, a whopping 98% are guilty of greenwashing.
TerraChoice has published an excellent report, called “The Seven Sins of Greenwashing,” that identifies the most common misleading green marketing practices. According to this report, greenwashing “sins” include: marketing that emphasizes one environmental issue at the expense of potentially more serious concerns (“The Sin of the Hidden Trade-off”), marketing that makes assertions that are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification (“The Sin of No Proof”), and others.
According to the Sierra Club, Case is calling for “a single, unifying environmental label to make ‘buying green’ easy for U.S. consumers.” As it stands now, more than 300 different green or sustainable labels are used worldwide, and some of those green certifications sell for a flat fee.
“Without the ability to compare products with a standardized, transparent process, the market-based environmentalism approach that relies on consumers to buy greener products from greener
companies does not work,” Case said in his testimony.
Sounds like your marketing department needs to keep an eye on this simmering debate. Based on TerraChoice’s research, government regulation regarding the word “green” will require the vast majority of so-called eco-friendly companies to adjust their product labeling.