This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. You can follow along here.
By Carrie Staller
If companies were children, and greenwashing was a four-letter word, many mouths would have been washed out with soap. Organic soap. In case you missed the train or are newly aboard, greenwashing is any misleading claim regarding the environmental benefits of a product or service. As “green” descended down from the heavens (or up from the earth as it turns out) as the latest and greatest new business trend several years ago, many companies happily slapped the term on taglines, packaging, websites and other brand assets. Some of them really were green, and some, well, weren’t. At all. Which lead to a number of dynamics:
1) Many consumers got confused about what was green and what wasn’t and lost trust in green claims.
2) Companies who were legitimately doing good got lost in the shuffle
3) Companies who were not doing what they claimed experienced backlash by both businesses and consumers alike demanding they stop making false claims and step up their game.
None of these dynamics are good for business. Terrachoice decided to take a stand and developed an education tool in 2007, the Seven Sins of Greenwashing:
1) Sin of the hidden trade-off
2) Sin of no proof
3) Sin of vagueness
4) Sin of false labeling
5) Sin of irrelevance
6) Sin of the lesser of two evils
7) Sin of fibbing
Now here’s the good news. Terrachoice’s latest report shows that true “greener” product offerings are up 73% for home and family consumer items from 2009 to 2010. They are also pleased to report that the number of greenwashing-free products is up from 1% in 2007 to 4.5% in 2010. Scott McDougall, CEO of Terrachoice would like to see greenwashing on everyone’s green-dar, but cautions that “scrutiny of environmental claims will be positive for the movement only as long as it manages to discourage greenwashing while simultaneously encouraging more and more green product innovation and successful commercialization.”
More information on Terrachoice’s greenwashing research and the seven can be found at www.sinsofgreenwashing.org