Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practice of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Following are six patterns in greenwashing, courtesy of TerraChoice Environmental Marketing.
1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: Suggesting a product is green based on a single attribute, such as the recycled content of paper for example, without attention to other issues such as energy, global warming, water and forestry impacts of paper.
2. Sin of No Proof: Failing to substantiate a claim by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification, such as a claim that a light bulb is energy efficient, but the product lacks certification.
3. Sin of Vagueness: Making a claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood, such as the terms ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly,’ which are meaningless without elaboration.
4. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: Claiming that a product, such as cigarettes made with organic tobacco, is green, and obscuring the fact that smoking is damaging.
5. Sin of Irrelevance: Making a claim that may be truthful, but is unimportant and not helpful for those seeking environmentally referable products. For example, stating that a product is free of chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer. Since CFCs have been banned for 30 years, no products are manufactured with it.
6. Sin of Fibbing: Making a false claim, for example, thata product is certified when it’s not.
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