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The Seven Sins of Greenwashing – Sin #3

Greenwashing is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

The Sin of Vagueness is when a manufacturer makes a claim that is unsubstantiated or what I’d call so “milk toast” as to have no meaning. As an example, the logo shown here says “eco-friendly”. OK. The product is friendly to the ecology. Friendly how? What’s THAT supposed to mean? Does the product enhance the environment, cause minimal harm or what? It’s kind of like the other phrase “all natural” that I’m saving for my next post on irrelevance.

But in the same sense, when a manufacturer makes a claim about the environmental benefit of their product, there needs to be substantive evidence that what is said is something that can be backed up. Otherwise, just let the benefits of the product stand on their own without clouding it with vague claims that really mean nothing and are only made to sell the product.

I understand marketing and I understand the “need” in our current culture to sell products. We are a consumer society (and whether or not that’s good or bad is a debate I will save for another post). But what the Greenwashing Reports we have been referring to talk about is some clear, concrete guidelines on what the claims actually mean. And being able to find the information, accurately and clearly would be so helpful.

Which leads me to what I think is a pretty cool discovery. As I was researching this article, I came across a Natural Home Magazine article from July, 2009 (OK, there’s a lot of information out there and I try to stay up on the latest, but still often miss stuff) with a site that intrigued me.

It’s called The Good Guide and is also available as an iPhone app. And that also was interesting because I have an iPhone and am a big fan of Apple products. So I downloaded the app and tried it out. It’s free and currently has about 70,000 products available.

Products are rated in the areas of health, the environment and the company’s ethics related to society. A simple scale of 0 to 10 in these three categories is established and an overall rating is given. There are a lot of really neat features with this site and the iPhone app. Probably the most exciting for me is the ability to use my iPhone’s camera to scan the bar code and get the rating. I’ve tested it and it seems to work quite well.

So if I’m in the store, shopping for an item, and have a question or concern, I can whip out my trusty iPhone (always fun to do, regardless of the outcome), scan the bar code and generally get the info I want.

And The Good Guide has more detailed information available if I want it. That helps get past the Sin of Vagueness.

Next Post: Sin #4 – The Sin of Irrelevance

One Response so far.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ARBOR SOUTH, William Randall. William Randall said: #Greenwashing Sin #3: How vague can we be? http://ow.ly/3nkyf […]