Greenwashing: What it is, how to avoid it, and how not to do it

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In previous years, “going green” was something that other businesses did. Now it’s what every business wants to do. But in the rush to promote their business or product as green, many companies …

In previous years, “going green” was something that other businesses did. Now it’s what every business wants to do. But in the rush to promote their business or product as green, many companies seeking to exploit this growing opportunity are by their very actions damaging the credibility and viability that truly green businesses offer. Paul Smith of GreenSmith Consulting explores “greenwashing” and its implications.

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  • Terrachoice is a for-profit company that created a bias marketing campaign to push Ecologo (the logo they manage). They never showed us the products that 'sinned', therefore they are greenwashing themselves. This is clearly explained elsewhere (1).

    Moreover, I bought some Ecologo products a while back and noticed greenwashing on the labels. What a farce; that makes Terrachoice and Ecologo sinners! This prompted me to check out Ecologo standards. I was surprised to learn that they are so old they cannot really represent environmental leadership anymore?! Others only have a single criterion statement (another sin); where is the life-cycle approach they promised on their website (another lie)?! Check out their website and download the standards and see for yourself… Shame on Terrachoice for pointing the finger at others, when they cannot deliver. Most eco-labels are not worth paying extra money, because we have no idea of the real environmental savings. All we have here is hypocrisy, marketing spin, and a very bad marketing campaign. (2) Beware!

    (1) http://makower.typepad.com/joel_makower/2010/11/is-terrachoice-greenwashing-.html

    (2) http://makower.typepad.com/joel_makower/2009/04/the-seven-sins-of-greenwashing-is-everybody-lying.html
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  • Nice introduction to greenwashing! Featued on sciencevideoresources: http://sciencevideos.wordpress.com. Good job!
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  • Great stuff Paul, bravo!!
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  • Thanks very much @ludaniel and @fpattberg. Glad it translates well, sans effects and me there talking. Would be glad to give it, and any other presentations in the green/social media realm where it's wanted.
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  • Congrats on being in today's Most Viewed. Great preso, even if the animations didn't make it. (I caught you on Twitter yesterday with the SlideShare account)
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  • 1. Greenwashing: What is it, how to spot it & how to avoid doing it yourself.
  • 2. A little about me
  • 3. QUIZ!!
  • 4. Which of the following are greenwashing?
  • 5. CSX GenSet Train
  • 6. CSX GenSet Train
  • 7. GreenWorks Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 8. GreenWorks Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 9. What is Greenwashing?
  • 10. ?
  • 11. Vague meaningless language Words or terms that say nothing specific, have no fixed meaning
  • 12. Green product, dirty company We’re Green! But our factory isn’t!
  • 13. Pretty pictures Distraction from a company’s true impact.
  • 14. “One Factor” syndrome Touting one obvious “baddie” being gone, replaced by something same/worse
  • 15. Um, so? Greening a product that still remains harmful.
  • 16. Fake/ meaningless “Certification” ‘nuff said.
  • 17. Claim without certification No, this is not real, but you get the picture
  • 18. Lying!
  • 19. How much greenwashing is going on?
  • 20. 6 Sins of Greenwashing study (1018 products analyzed) • Hidden Trade-off : 998 products • No Proof : 454 products • Vagueness : 196 products • Irrelevance : 78 products • Fibbing : 10 products • Lesser of Two Evils : 17 products
  • 21. Does greenwashing matter?
  • 22. Effects of greenwashing • Lack of trust • Damages true green credibility • Breeds cynicism • Feeds “trendy” label • Dismantles positive benefits achieved so far
  • 23. Tools you can use to sort the green from the greenwash
  • 24. BuyGreen.com’s Green Standards
  • 25. Outside experts
  • 26. The Wash
  • 27. Guardian Greenwash column
  • 28. How not to do it? • Transparency • Honesty • Patience • Inclusive of consumer • Design with green in mind, not afterthought
  • 29. “Hypocrisy is the first step to real change.”
  • 30. What now? Discussion questions • Will greenwashing soil people’s enthusiasm for green products beyond repair? • How can we address/take action with companies that greenwash? • What tools/knowledge do you use to know things are truly green? • What is the square root of 169?
  • 31. Links: • guardian.co.uk/environment/series/greenwash • http://washwatch.wordpress.com/ • http://www.greenwashingindex.com/ • http://www.terrachoice.com/Home/ Greenwashing/The%20Six%20Sins • http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2008/11/02/ cokes-dilemma-growth-green-or-both