Greenwashers beware

Regulators worldwide are increasingly being vigilant about any greenwashing business for consumers’ protection and rightly so.

The FTC is already looking to revised their Environmental Marketing guidelines through a series of workshops that examines green marketing.

In Norway, tighter advertising guidelines on cars are being enforced such as fining car makers if they use the words ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, ‘clean’, ‘environmental car’, ‘natural’ or similar descriptions, according to a Reuters article.

“If someone says their car is more ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ than others then they would have to be able to document it in every aspect from production, to emissions, to energy use, to recycling. In practice that can’t be done,” says a Norwegian government official.

EnviroMedia, a green marketing agency based in Austin, Texas, recently launched its Greenwashing Index, where anybody can rate any company’s green advertisings and marketing claims.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council, a Chevy billboard, a coal advertising in Pennsylvania, Kermit the Frog (in a Ford commercial), and an advertising about waste management are some of the top green hogwashers in the Index.

I think a Greenwash Index is a good idea for warning consumers about unscrupulous marketers. However, one major issue is trying to define what green really means to a consumer. Some of the participants seem to be giving bad rates just because they can and not because of any reasonable explanations on why they think the ads are misleading or their products are not being green enough. One commented about Kermit being a traitor and rated the Ford ad as a total greenwash (the highest uncomplimentary rate is 5).

Another rated an eco water bottle with 4.6 because reducing its plastic content by 30% is not good enough to use the word “eco”. To him (or her), the only way a plastic water bottle can be green is by not existing at all.

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