Adventures in Social Media with Ashley

Washing Up Greenwashing
July 15, 2008, 9:33 pm
Filed under: corporate social responsibility, social media, sustainability | Tags:

Yesterday I posted a blog on JustMeans All Things Reconsidered called Shades of “Going Green.” It covers a Wharton conference that explores some strategies that companies use to become more environmentally friendly and benefit financially. I briefly mentioned “greenwashing” as an interesting topic in the green economy, but didn’t investigate further. Greenwashing can be defined as “the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy” (from SourceWatch).

Here’s a video that shows the TerraChoice study that revealed that 99% of the researched companies were guilty of some form of greenwashing.

Here are what TerraChoice considers the Six Common Sins of Greenwashing:

1. Hidden Tradeoff

2. No proof

3. Vagueness

4. Irrelevance

5. Fibbing

6. Lesser of Two Evils

So what does this mean for consumers and companies? Because most businesses aren’t abandoning the bottom-line any time soon, it is up to consumers to research, ask questions and hold higher standards for the companies that sell us their products. Consumers should look beyond advertisements, packaging and branding, and start using social media to engage companies in a critical conversation about their joint environmental impact. At JustMeans, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to get companies to join the conversation, but it is up to consumers to make this dialogue interactive, important and ongoing.