Greenwashing: When That Product is not as Green as it Sounds
Being “green” is a major concern today among small and large businesses alike. Marketing products and company processes as environmentally friendly has a lot of appeal to consumers. The consumer desire to “go green” whenever possible has led many companies to market their products and services as environmentally friendly. Supply chain professionals responsible for purchasing, and individual consumers alike, need to carefully select products if they are to indeed be “green.” Just because a product claims to be environmentally responsible does not mean that it actually is. The result of false or misleading environmental claims on products is an example of “greenwashing.”
Greenwashing is common in marketing campaigns for businesses in every industry. Basically, greenwashing is the result of unfounded environmental claims that promote products and services as environmentally friendly when there is no evidence to support such claims. One example is packaging that is designed to appear environmentally friendly. Words promoting products as “100% natural,” “Eco-friendly,” and environmentally safe” are also signs a product may be greenwashed.
Facts are the most important way to avoid this marketing mistake. For every “green” claim a business makes, there should be facts supporting the claim, so that consumers are well aware that the company is truly contributing to environmental stewardship. Consumers are losing confidence in environmental claims made by businesses. Restoring consumer confidence in your businesses’ environmental practices requires that all claims made regarding “green” or “environmentally friendly” products or processes are backed by verifiable facts. It is also wise to omit any “green” claims for products or processes that involve unsustainable supply chain or partnership.
Studies have shown that consumers are becoming much more aware of what exactly constitutes an environmentally responsible product or service, and are not as easily persuaded by the buzzwords that once convinced us that products were environmentally safe and sustainable. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued guidelines in 1992 that dictate what constitutes acceptable environmental marketing practices. These guidelines have contributed to consumer awareness regarding environmental marketing claims. Even so, companies have managed to continue to market with misleading environmental messages attached to their products.
So, how do supply chain professionals and consumers avoid the greenwashing trap? One way is to look for third party environmental certifications attached to products. These third party labels help to verify whether a product is truly earth-friendly. Labels such as Energy Star and Green Seal are excellent guides to help you assess the environmental quality of a product.
Researching products is important, especially for supply chain professionals that want to ensure they are purchasing the most sustainable products possible. After all, if a supply chain uses products that are produced with unsustainable materials and fuels, any product manufactured using those materials will also be unsustainable. Manufacturers need to take special care when labeling their products with “green” marketing terms. It is extremely important that manufacturers only use terms that can be backed up with facts and evidence. Also, avoid vague language and terminology that could have misleading implications.
Luckily, consumers are beginning to get educated on what types of products and certifications constitute true sustainable practices, and what terminology to avoid. It will ultimately be up to consumers to reject misleading marketing labels in favor of products that are honest about their environmental impacts. Then, perhaps, we can see some truth in “green” marketing.
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.