How to avoid the seven sins of greenwashing
December 4, 2009
By Tuija Seipell
Dec. 4, 2009 – Avoiding greenwashing does not
mean waiting for a perfect product. It does mean that sound science, honesty and transparency are paramount. It means avoiding the Seven Sins of
1) Avoid the Sin of the Hidden
a) Start with an honest
understanding of all of the environmental impacts of your product across its
b) Emphasize specific messages
(particularly when you know your audiences care about those issues) but don’t
use single issues to distract attention from other impacts.
c) Don’t make claims about a
single environmental impact or benefit, without knowing how your product
performs in terms of its other impacts, and without sharing that information
with your customers.
d) Pursue continual improvement
of your environmental footprint (across the entire lifecycle), and encourage
your customers to join you on that journey.
2) Avoid the Sin of No Proof.
a) Understand and confirm the
scientific case behind each green marketing claim.
b) Make evidence readily
available, or rely on third-party certifications whose standards are publically
3) Avoid the Sin of Vagueness.
a) Use language that resonates
with your customers, as long as that language is truthful.
b) Don’t use vague names and
without providing precise explanations of your meaning.
4) Avoid the Sin of Worshiping
a) If third-party endorsement of
your claims is
important: Get it, don’t fake
b) Favor eco-labels that are
themselves accredited, and that address the entire lifecycle of the products
5) Avoid the Sin of
a) Don’t claim CFC-free, unless
it is a legitimate point of competitive differentiation.
b) Don’t claim any environmental
benefit that is shared by all or most of your competitors.
6) Avoid the Sin of the Lesser
of Two Evils.
a) Help each customer find the
product that is right for them, based on their needs and wants.
b) Don’t try to make a customer
feel ‘green’ about a choice that is harmful or unnecessary.
7) Avoid the Sin of Fibbing.
a) Tell the truth. Always.
b) Always tell the truth.
OTHER ANTI-GREENWASHING RESOURCES
Instructions on how to detect and monitor greenwashing and provides a list of
numerous articles on the topic.
Understanding and Preventing Greenwash: A Business Guide (European, July 2009)
Interbrand: Best Global Brands 2009
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