Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Greenwashing Report

On Sunday I flipped through the Target circular as usual. It was targeted toward "Earth Week" and highlighted lots of new and exciting "green" products like recycled aluminum foil, cat litter made from recycled newspaper, and a CD recorded with solar power. Part of me was thrilled to see that big business was thinking green, but part of me was skeptical...

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

In November 2008 and January 2009, TerraChoice researchers were sent into category-leading ‘big box’ retailers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia with instructions to record every product making an environmental claim. For each product, the researchers recorded product details, claim(s) details, any supporting information, and any explanatory detail or offers of additional information or support.

In the United States and Canada, a total of 2,219 products making 4,996 green claims were recorded. These claims were tested against best practices, notably against guidelines provided by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Competition Bureau of Canada, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, and the ISO 14021 standard for environmental labeling.

Of the 2,219 North American products surveyed, over 98% committed at least one of the previously identified Six Sins of Greenwashing and a new Seventh Sin emerged. Read the full report here.

The following are the highlights of the 2009 Seven Sins of Greenwashing research:
The emergence of a seventh Sin – the ‘Sin of Worshiping False Labels’. Some marketers are exploiting consumers’ demand for third-party certification by creating fake labels or false suggestions of third-party endorsement. This development is serious enough to warrant its own category - hence the seventh Sin.

More products are making environmental claims. The total number of ‘green’ products increased by an average of 79% (a range between 40% and 176%) in stores that were visited in both 2007 and 2008. (In a related TerraChoice study, the rate of green advertising was found to have almost tripled since 2006.)

Greenwashing is still rampant, with more than 98% of ‘green’ products committing at least one of the Sins. Compared to the 2007 study, there appears to be a small decline in the frequency of greenwashing, but it is not statistically significant. Of 2,219 products making green claims in the United States and Canada, only 25 products were found to be Sin-free.

Eco-labeling is on the rise. Legitimate eco-labeling is nearly twice as common as it was last year, increasing from 13.7% to 23.4% on all ‘green’ products in the report.

Kids (toys and baby products), cosmetics and cleaning products are three categories in which green claims – and greenwashing – are most common. These products, among the most common products in most households, deserve particular scrutiny from consumers.

Greenwashing is an international challenge, with very similar patterns in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The most significant differences between these countries are the environmental issues associated with the claims made on products. Water conservation was more common in Australia for example, and recyclability in the United States.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...