Over the last few months I have attended several courses on the prevalence of questionable environmental claims, greenwashing, and eco-labels in the marketplace today. As green design and sustainability become a part of our everyday lives, appropriate marketing continues to become more and more important (and regulated by the FTC).
I remember what it was like to be an interior designer trying to weed through all the sustainable product options available. It was difficult to decide whether you wanted a rapidly renewable resource integrated into your product, or a material that would be recycled at the end of its useful life. Or both! Or neither!
On the other hand, environmental marketing can be tricky! It’s challenging enough to tell your company or product’s story in a way all of your competitors haven’t already done so, but you must also do it without unintentionally misleading your customer (because most of the time people are not trying to lie, they just don’t know any better).
For those of you struggling with how to navigate this slippery slope, I give you: The seven sins of green washing. These “sins” have been around for a few years, but I still find them relevant today and each presenter I listened to cited them as a great resource for marketers everywhere.
- The Hidden Trade-Off: Focusing on only one environmental impact at the expense of, or while ignoring others.
- No Proof: A claim that cannot be easily substantiated or is not backed by a third party certification.
- Vagueness: a claim that is poorly defined, too broad or easily misunderstood.
- Irrelevance: a claim that is truthful but unimportant.
- Lesser of two evils: A true claim that distracts from the environmental issues of the product.
- Fibbing: A claim that is simply false.
- Worshiping false labels: The use of fake or meaningless labels that imply a third-party certification when none exists.