Greenwashing on the Rise – Report

There are more
products claiming to be green on the shelves of stores these days, however those ‘all-natural’ and
‘organic’ products are likely committing at least one of the Seven Sins of Greenwashing, according to a new study.

Between 2007 and 2009, the in-store availability of so-called ‘green’ products has
increased between 40% and 176%, with 98% of products surveyed still committing at least one Sin of
Greenwashing, according to a report on the Seven Sins of Greenwashing released by
TerraChoice Environmental Marketing.

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

TerraChoice said Greenwashing is changing in creative ways. As a result, a new sin has been identified and added to the
original 2007 Six Sins of Greenwashing. The ‘Sin of Worshiping False Labels’ means that some
marketers are mimicking third-party environmental certifications on their products to entice consumers
to buy.

“The good news is that the growing availability of green products shows that consumers are demanding
more environmentally responsible choices, and that marketers and manufacturers are listening”, said
TerraChoice President and CEO Scott McDougall. “The bad news is that TerraChoice’s survey of 2,219
consumer products in Canada and the U.S. shows that 98% committed at least one Sin of
Greenwashing… Despite the number of
legitimate eco-labels out there, consumers will still have to remain vigilant in their green purchasing
decisions”.

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing, from most common to least common, are:

1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off occurs when one environmental issue is emphasized at
the expense of potentially more serious concerns. In other words, when marketing hides a
trade-off between environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily
environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest.

2. The Sin of No Proof happens when environmental assertions are not backed up by
evidence or third-party certification. One common example is facial tissue products that
claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any
supporting details.

3. The Sin of Vagueness occurs when a marketing claim is so lacking in specifics as to be
meaningless. ‘All-natural’ is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and
formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily
‘green’.

4. The (new) Sin of Worshiping False Labels is when marketers create a false suggestion or
certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a
legitimate green certification process. One example of this Sin is a paper towel product
whose packaging has a certification-like image that makes the bold claim that the product
‘fights global warming.’

5. The Sin of Irrelevance arises when an environmental issue unrelated to the product is
emphasized. One example is the claim that a product is ‘CFC-free’, since CFCs are banned
by law.

6. The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils occurs when an environmental claim makes consumers
feel ‘green’ about a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic
cigarettes are an example of this Sin.

7. The Sin of Fibbing is when environmental claims are outright false. One common example
is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified.

“In our 2009 Seven Sins of Greenwashing Report, we focused on children’s toys, baby products,
cosmetics, and cleaning products, because these product categories are the most susceptible to
greenwashing and are of particular concern to consumers who want to ensure what they buy is safe for
their families and are environmentally responsible,” said McDougall.

The report investigates the state of greenwashing in the United Kingdom and Australia, including
examining almost 1,000 products in each of these two countries, revealing that greenwashing is an
international challenge.

“The final piece of good news is that eco-labeling is on the rise”, added McDougall. “Legitimate eco-labeling is nearly twice as common as it was in our 2007 survey, increasing from 13.7% to 23.4% on all
‘green’ products.

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