Thursday, February 17, 2011

“Greenwashing” Corporation’s Dirty Little Secret

The new wave of eco friendly products has invaded our shelves with a green commitment to the environment. But has this movement induced sustainability in the corporate world, or is it all calculated smoke and mirrors?

Most claims of green practices are made without any outside research or proof. Product labels have been the biggest culprit for greenwashing. It seems that while our society has moved in a green direction; clever PR strategists’ have been working tirelessly to manipulate our green perception.

We, as the public have been taken advantage of left, right, and centre by Green PR campaigns without even realizing it. Green has become the new grey; and unless you’re an environmentalist, it is almost impossible to know the difference between a legitimate green product and a cleverly placed green label. An example of this is the ever so vague eco-friendly label. People purchase eco-friendly products to feel as if they have made a conscious decision. But how can a friendship be measured or even scientifically validated?

My personal favourite in green spin, would be the completely unrelated claim. How would an average consumer know the implications or relevance of a label that states it no longer uses chemical “XY” in their product? Corporations are banking on the appeal of being green, regardless if chemical “XY” has been banned since the sixties; the label implies that it’s a healthy change and consumers are buying it without question.

TerraChoice Environmental Marketing group has been battling the greenwash epidemic by creating a standard framework for green products to be validated on. This outline was ingeniously titled “The Six Sins of Greenwashing”. In order for a product to be considered ‘Sin-Free’, it must not breach any of the following sins:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off

2. Sin of No Proof

3. Sin of Vagueness

4. Sin of Irrelevance

5. Sin of Fibbing

6. Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils

For more information on what ‘Greenwashing Sins’ entail visit:

Our market has been completely saturated with illegitimate green products and practices. TerraChoice studies found that 95% of green products had misleading claims. The 2010 study was conducted based on the Competition Act of Canada, ISO 14021 Standards for Environmental Labelling, and the ‘6 Sins of Greenwashing’ framework. The full details of this report can be found at:

There is just so much Greenwashing out there; the number of offenders involved is plain startling. The environmental stakes are too high for us to just ignore this issue. Today’s consumption levels have put a lot of strain on the environment; and radical standards are what we need to start adapting in order for this green movement to make any difference. I’m not saying I have a solution to the greenwashing pandemic, and I by no means claim to- but we need to protect our consumers with a universal labelling system.

The question remains whether or not this corporate green movement will jump on the TerraChoice bandwagon or if we as consumers will simply continue to blindly buy into green spin without any validation?

Side Note:

I’ve posted a YouTube video of a Canadian PSA parody on corporate sustainability. The video is stock filled with sarcasm and definitly good for a laugh. I also attached a live feed of Scott McDougall President of TerraChoice speaking on the ‘Six Sins of Greenwashing’. This guy has so much passion, and a true gift for public speaking. It’s well worth a few minutes of your life.

-Hillary Flood

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