Great. Just what we all need -- another sin to possibly commit. This one, however, has nothing to do with your neighbor's wife. It has to do with "greenwashing," or "the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service." TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, which published an original document listing "The Six Sins of Greenwashing" back in 2007, has just updated its research and added a seventh sin -- "the sin of worshipping of false labels." Its new report contains some startling information about the use and misuse of environmental marketing claims, including a 98 percent sinning rate. Here's a snippet from the executive summary:
In November 2008 and January 2009, TerraChoice researchers were sent into category-leading 'big box' retailers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia with instructions to record every product making an environmental claim. For each product, the researchers recorded product details, claim(s) details, any supporting information, and any explanatory detail or offers of additional information or support. In the United States and Canada, a total of 2,219 products making 4,996 green claims were recorded. These claims were tested against best practices, notably against guidelines provided by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Competition Bureau of Canada, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, and the ISO 14021 standard for environmental labeling. Of the 2,219 North American products surveyed, over 98% committed at least one of the previously identified Six Sins of Greenwashing and a new Seventh Sin emerged.Philadelphia-based Terrachoice explained this new sin thusly: "Some marketers are exploiting consumers' demand for third-party certification by creating fake labels or false suggestions of third-party endorsement. This development is serious enough to warrant its own category -- hence the seventh Sin." TerraChoice offers downloadable PDF versions of both the 2007 and the updated reports on its Web site. And if this topic interests you, then you also may wish to check out this video clip of TerraChoice VP Scot Case when he discussed the first six sins last November at the Sustain '08 conference in Chicago. Another Sustain speaker, C. Steven Baker, Chicago-based head of the Federal Trade Commission's Midwest Region, in his presentation added some thoughts of his own on the topic of responsible environmental marketing. Good luck keeping your nose clean! (and thanks to Robert Grace, editor and associate publisher of Plastics News, for contributing this post).