Beware of “Greenwash”
There is a growing consumer concern about climate change and increasing demand for green products.Consumers are waking up to the need to look after the environment and marketers are jumping madly on the bandwagon.
Marketers sell on emotion so they often stretch the truth to build that very emotion that connects with the buyers. It is their job.
Up to 50% of Australians will now investigate the origins of a product or service, and will pay more for a product that they believe is from a sustainable source. This is the crux of the problem. They believe it is sustainable.
All this confusion about what “green” really means is spawning a wide range of environmental certifications; generally product certifications. There is confusion about what they all mean and whether and what quality any auditing has. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched a crackdown on green claims with the release of its guidelines, Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act, in November 2007. Under the act, there is maximum fine of $1.2 million for companies engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct.
The ACCC is already taking court action against car manufacturer Saab. Saab, being Swedish actually has a green production and management system but the marketers went too far. Woolworths has changed its packaging of Woolworths Select tissue products after an ACCC probe. An ACCC spokesman says that while large companies have been targeted so far, smaller businesses will be the subject of future investigations. That includes all of us.
There are three things to watch for to catch the “fake green”
- Beware of images and logos with warm fluffy pictures like dolphins, frogs and pandas and vague names like eco, enviro and environmentally friendly. 99% of the time they mean nothing.
- Certification and green ticks need to have a recognised number like ISO 14001 because a lot of them are just fraud or do not have a rigorous certification.
- Another thing to be wary of is the use of a lot of scientific data because this is usually not relevant and intended to confuse and mislead you.
There are some product certifications but these certifications are mainly less than rigorous. ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard that certifies the entire management of the business. ISO 14001 also brings real benefits to the individual business by increasing its efficiency and improving its environmental impacts.
Once we get into carbon, we come up with another “bag of worms”. The ACCC is set to release additional guidelines in the coming months for this and they are challenging a number of carbon neutral claims. Including the V* supercar racing. A common mistake people make is to claim carbon neutrality for a product when the company has only considered emissions during manufacturing and not the total life cycle, which includes use and disposal. And this does not even touch on some of the tree planting practices to claim carbon credits. Some schemes are well run but others are not.
Source: Jean Cannon - EnviroAction