Greenwashing is the term used when sales claims about a ‘green product’ are simply false (as opposed to throwing Kermit the Frog in the washing machine).
Greenwashing is the act of lying to people about the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product. Many so-called ‘green’ products are not green at all! They’re not even a shade of green. Dishonest companies try to cash in on our concerns about the destruction of our environment by passing off their products as green.
These people think that they are being clever, tricking us into buying something, but in reality they are kidding themselves and letting themselves and their companies down. These companies will do anything to trick us.
We must all keep our lie detectors on high alert!
1. THE HIDDEN TRADE-OFF
It is suggested that a product is green based on only one or a narrow set of criteria without paying any attention to the overall negative impact of the product. This is the most common form of greenwashing and makes up 57% of all false claims.
2. NO PROOF
Any claim that cannot be backed with proof (in the form of easily accessed information or by a third party) is a rubbish claim. This comes in at number two, making up 26% of all greenwashing claims. If a company makes a claim, check for proof. Get on the company website or ring them and ask for evidence.
Claims that are so poorly defined or broad that they are intended to confuse the customer or mean nothing at all. An example of this is ‘chemical free’. This is rubbish – nothing is chemical free! Water is a chemical and all plants and animals are made up of chemicals. ‘Non-toxic’ is another a classic! Everything is toxic if you have too much of it – water, oxygen and salt are all potentially dangerous.
The words ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are also pretty meaningless. So is ‘all natural’ – arsenic and mercury are natural and can kill you! The brown coal we are choking the atmosphere with is ‘all natural’ and when crude oil is taken from the ground it is ‘all natural’. ‘All natural’ doesn’t mean ‘good’. It might just be an all-natural killer. These types of vague claims come in at number three, with 11%.
Some companies make environmental claims that may be true, but they are largely unhelpful and unimportant. A favorite one is the claim of ‘containing no CFCs’ – a major contributor to ozone depletion. CFC’s have been banned for 30 years and are not used to manufacture anything any more! Nice try.
Maybe they should write ‘beryllium free’ – it sounds good, but actually means there are no metal plates in your muesli bar. These totally irrelevant claims of ‘free’ products account for 4% of all greenwashing. The remaining 2% are outright lies.
Eco labels to look for and avoid
Eco labels are the things to look for. These internationally recognised symbols have been created in response to rampant greenwashing. These products have been certified by independent third parties, such as Green Seal and EcoLogo, who continue to monitor products and their claims. Australian logos and standards are listed below – look out for them.
LABELS TO LOOK FOR
LABELS TO AVOID
Things that companies need to think about:
- If they make a claim, can they prove it to be true 100% of the time?
- If the claim is true, does it really matter?
- Is the problem being avoided really important?
- Are there any other negative issues being overlooked?
- Are claims backed up by solid evidence?