Greenwashing: Greenwash (a portmanteau of green and whitewash) is a term used to describe the practice of companies spinning their product lines as being environmentally friendly as a means to appeal to consumers, persuading them to buy that product rather than another or accept a change in a product. This can mean misleading a customer into thinking an aspect of the product is good for the environment when in reality it is merely a cost cutting method for the company, such as insisting people use less toilet paper in order to save trees when in reality the company does not want to buy as much toilet paper. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to appear that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment. (Wikipedia)
I Just Gotta Tell Ya:
- In a Survey of 6 big box retailers, Terra Choice found that only 1 of the 1018 consumer products tested did not make false claims in regard to greenness.
6 Sins From Terra Choice- READ the Full Article
- Many manufactuers claim a a product is green based upon a single environmental attribute
- No Proof- Many make a claim but no 3rd party certification
- Vague Claims- using such terms as toxin free or earth friendly
- Big Deal- about what?- Low VOC- which has been banned
- Lying- Energy Star Caulking- no such thing
How to Know if they are Greenwashing? See more Information from Source Watch.org
- Follow the Money Trail: many companies are donors to political parties, think tanks and other groups in the community. Few companies actually disclose in their annual reports exactly whom they are donating to, even though it is shareholders money. Ask about all their donations, not just those they boast about in glossy documents such as the corporate social responsibilityreports.
- Follow the membership trail: Many companies boast about the virtues of their environmental policy and performance but hide their anti-environmental activism behind the banner of an industry association to which they belong. Find out what industry association companies are members of and check and see what their policies are. Assume that all individual companies support the trade associations policy positions until such time as they publicly state that they don’t agree with them or they resign. (See the article on the third party technique, a central plank in most PR campaigns).
- Follow the paper trail: Most companies, or their trade associations, will make submissions to government and other inquiries on a wide range of issues. Often these submissions will be posted to a website. They will also send lots of letters to politicians and government agencies, which can be accessed by Freedom of Information Act searches. Ask about submissions made by the company and their lobbying on issues you are interested in. You will probably discover that instead of lobbying for tougher environmental standards, they are busy trying to weaken the ones that exist.
- Look for skeletons in the company’s closet: Every company has major problems that it doesn’t want the public and regulators to know about. Some companies include information in the annual reports about problems that have been in the news in the last year. More often, there will have been problems, occasionally reported in the media, which they don’t want to tell shareholders about. Check for information on the company with watchdog groups and in the media and compare that with what they disclose.
- Test for access to information: Many companies will make lofty claims about their commitment to transparency and providing information to ‘stakeholders’. Don’t just take them at their word. In their reports they will probably refer to environmental impact statements, reviews, audits, monitoring data and other information. If it relates to an issue you are interested in, ask to see it. And remember that ‘commercially confidential’ is just corporate speak for ‘no’.
- Test for international consistency: Most companies will operate to different standards in other countries. Check and see whether their operating standards and procedures are consistent or whether they opt for lower standards where they think they can get away with it.
- Check how they handle their critics: Some companies go to extraordinary lengths to try and silence their critics. This can involve everything from legal threats (see the article on SLAPPs) to funding and collaborating with police and military forces.
- Test for consistency over time: It is common for a company to launch a policy or initiative and then starve it of funds. Or a company will make promises when they are under public pressure but never implement them when the spotlight fades.
1. Where did this material come from?
2. What are the byproducts of its manufacture?
3. How is the material delivered and installed?
4. How is the material maintained and operated?
5. How healthy is the material?
6. What do we do with the material once we’re done with it?