Greenwashing is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”
SIN #2 – THE SIN OF NO PROOF
The Sin of No Proof is one where there isn’t a readily-available way to verify the claim. So my picture here of a wine “bottle” that claims to be “Mother Earth Approved” would be deceptive in that you can’t verify that claim. I visited the website for this wine and I think this is probably done largely in jest, but it’s still a claim that can’t be substantiated. The cartons are made of paper, “a renewable resource that comes from trees.” and are recyclable (much like milk cartons).
But many of the claims on this particular product’s website about package ratio, CO2 footprint, fuel efficiency (because they are lighter to transport) would be difficult to quantify. Sometimes a manufacturer will make claims that try to snow you with facts or figures or fine print that really can’t be determined or with data that is irrelevant or so vague as to be irrelevant.
“Green Guides” is a publication of the Federal Trade Commission that is seeking to set out some strict guidelines for what is appropriate in an advertiser’s claim and what isn’t. One example they give is a good indicator of what we need to be aware of:
“A trash bag is labeled ‘recyclable’ without qualification. Because trash bags will ordinarily not be separated out from other trash at the landfill or incinerator for recycling, they are highly unlikely to be used again for any purpose. Even if the bag is technically capable of being recycled, the claim is deceptive since it asserts an environmental benefit where no significant or meaningful benefit exists.”
As with all advertising claims, green or not, we as consumers need to be smart and aware. We need to pay attention, read closely how claims are worded and be sure we make the best decisions we can on our product purchases. The purpose of advertising is to get us to buy the product. And while many manufacturers will make accurate claims, there are those who will not. And with the proliferation of “green” as a consumer buzz-word and desire most of us have, we need to be even more aware.
Next Post: Sin #3 – The Sin of Vagueness