Green Marketing or Greenwashing? You Decide.

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Let me start by saying this is an interactive post. In order for it to be a stunning success, you need to pen your thoughts in the comment section below!

Normally at this time you would be reading my weekly column “Sustainably 101”. However, it is trade show season and I wanted to share a few stories from the road. Since April 20th, I have been speaking and attending conferences. First it was Coverings in Chicago, then off to Vegas for The National Hardware Show and The Hospitality and Design Expo.
One common theme carried throughout the exhibit hall: “green marketing”. Some displays excelled in telling their company and product’s green story. On the other hand, others failed miserably. Many companies disregarded environmental marketing regulations and guidelines, mainly because the marketing team didn’t know they existed. “Carbon Neutral” claims were highly visible, yet sales and marketing teams did not know how to talk to their customers about the carbon footprinting process, or if the product or manufacturing process was “carbon neutral”.
So, my question to you is this: Do you think the image above is marketing the product, company, or manufacturing process as carbon neutral? Yes, I have the answer. And, yes, I will share it with you after I receive your feedback!

Heather Gadonniex, LEED AP, is the co-founder of Green it Group, a sustainability strategy firm that focuses on helping organizations develop, measure, manage and market their sustainability initiatives. Ms. Gadonniex is also the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Greening Your Business, published by Alpha Books (with Trish Riley). Contact Heather at, or visit the Green it Group website.

6 responses

  1. It’s kind of hard to tell without a little context? So I guess the answer is both. We have no idea who they are and since everyone in town is now claiming to be carbon neutral via one method or another, I’m not super impressed. It’s better than just saying they’re “green”, however.

  2. I’d more more interested in knowing how the lighting helps companies achieve efficiency than whether or not these guys themselves are carbon neutral. In that sense, they’re obviously “marketing” to someone…

  3. It has been mentioned to me in the past that being Carbon Neutral is as much the same as paying a pet protection charity $10 a month so that you can kick your dog. Makes you feel better, but changes nothing. My vote is unless its material and substantive, its greenwash.

  4. Obviously, it is not clear which of these the banner copy is referring to. Perhaps the real question should be: Did the company INTEND this vagueness and if so is this a deliberate attempt to get more green mileage out of the efforts and expense they have invested to reach “carbon neutral” in a single area, or was it simply a case of poor copy writing?

  5. Thanks Heather! What a great challenge from the road.
    As those upthread have alluded to, there are legitimate greening efforts a lighting company can get involved in– namely the promotion of efficient lighting systems. The fact that this company’s green claims are about buying carbon offsets to offset… anything… shows they don’t totally get it. My money is on this effort being purely for their business operations.

  6. It seems to be that the product is being marketed as Carbon Neutral. However, in today’s day and age – without some sort of certification, or third party endorsement of their claims, their point is mute. Two companies that I work with have carbon neutral products – they come with hang tags that specifically clarify the process as well as the third party certification. This giant hanging billboard seems to only call attention – hopeful they had additional marketing materials that described the tedious process of offsetting the environmental impact of their lighting.

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