Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Dog bites man; or, Greenwashing is alive and well

My intern Captain Obvious brought to my attention a Wall Street Journal article that looks at misleading claims on green labeling. An environmental marketing company called TerraChoice issues a report that found "fibbing about or having no proof of environmental claims, vague or poorly defined marketing language, such as "all-natural," and the use of fake labels designed to imply a product has third-party certification or endorsement of its claims."

Scary is the TerraChoice report seems to find the worst greenwashing comes in baby and children's stuff - "BPA-free" being an increasingly popular sales tactic:

While the overall incidence of greenwashing dipped slightly—4.5% of products were dubbed "sin free" versus only 1% in 2007 when the first study was conducted—particular concerns were raised about the huge surge over the past year of products claiming to be free of Bisphenol A, a compound used in plastics such as baby bottles and other consumer products, and phthalates, which are used to give plastics like pacifiers flexibility and durability.

Go figure: almost all green toys are greenwashed. Also go figure: Energy Star claims are most commonly misstated.

I don't mean to downplay concerns about greenwashing. But it IS everywhere. And it's really hard to tease out. TerraChoice is owned by Underwriters Laboratories. In an effort to be servicey, I'll re-print their list of trustable labels on products:

  • Biodegradable Products Institute
  • CFPA
  • CRI Green Label
  • EcoCert
  • EcoLogo*
  • OKO-TEX
  • Fair Trade Certified
  • FSC
  • Green-E
  • Green Guard
  • Green Seal
  • Natural Products Association
  • Nordic Swan
  • PEFC
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • SCS
  • SFI
  • Skal EKO
  • Soil Association
  • UL Environment Environmental Claim Validation**
  • UL Environment Energy Efficiency Verification**
  • USDA Organic
  • Water Sense

Of course, UL makes two of the labels it approves. So this list may not be exclusive or exhaustive; and I haven't checked it; I can't say it's right either. Anyone got a good horror story about trying to figure this all out?

blog comments powered by Disqus

Enjoy reading Pacific Swell? You might like KPCC’s other blogs.

What's popular now on KPCC