Study Finds Misleading Green Claims
- Buyers beware — that so-called “green” product is likely stretching the eco-truth according to the Six Sins of Greenwashing study released by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing.
The Six Sins of Greenwashing found that of 1,018 common consumer products ranging from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers, randomly surveyed for the study, 99 percent were guilty of “greenwashing.”
“The products we surveyed made a total of 1,753 claims, and 99% per cent committed at least one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing,” says TerraChoice President Scott McDougall. “The Six Sins of Greenwashing will equip consumers with tools to help figure out the truth about enviro-friendly products.” The study and consumer tip sheets can be found on the Web at www.terrachoice.com.
The environmental shortcomings were so prevalent that TerraChoice separated them into six categories – or the “Six Sins of Greenwashing.”
1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products or 57 percent of all environmental claims committed this Sin.
- 2. Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26 percent of environmental claims committed this Sin.
- 3. Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100 percent natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. Seen in 196 products or 11 percent of environmental claims.
- 4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4 percent of environmental claims.
- 5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1 percent of environmental claims.
- 6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1 percent of environmental claims.
- “Consumers are inundated with products that make green claims,” says McDougall. “Some are accurate, certified and verifiable, while others are just plain fibbing to sell products.”
Manufacturers and suppliers can request an assessment and EcoLogo certification in order to determine whether a product’s claims are valid or if they commit one of the Six Sins. EcoLogo’s insignia will help consumers know that an independent, credible and expert third party has verified a product’s green qualifications.
“Consumers want to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle,” points out McDougall. “TerraChoice’s goal with the Six Sins of Greenwashing is to help consumers become more knowledgeable shoppers so that they can buy green with confidence.”
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