The 7 dirty little greenwashing sins – are those eco-claims true?
These are 7 seemingly innocuous sins companies commit, when they make bold unsubstantiated claims about how their products and practices are saving the planet. Yeah right.
|SIN OF THE HIDDEN TRADE-OFF
A claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest. Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, such as greenhouse gas emissions, or chlorine use in bleaching may be equally important.
|SIN OF NO PROOF
An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Common examples are facial tissues or toilet tissue products that claim various percentages of post consumer recycled content without providing evidence.
|SIN OF VAGUENESS
A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. ‘All-natural’ is an example. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.
|SIN OF WORSHIPING FALSE LABELS
A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists; fake labels, in other words.
|SIN OF IRRELEVANCE
An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. ‘CFC-free’ is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.
|SIN OF LESSER OF TWO EVILS
A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Organic cigarettes could be an example of this Sin, as might the fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicle.
|SIN OF FIBBING
Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.
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