Green Advertising on the Rise

Sustainable life media logo jpeg Terra Choice came out with a new report, The Seven Sins of Greenwashing, which analyzed green advertising, products and claims.

  • Green advertising has tripled between 2006 and 2008
  • Increased advertising and products has also led to an increased amount of greenwashing

Posted May 1, 2009
By Sustainable Life Media

A new report finds that marketers are targeting the eco-consumer
more than ever, with green advertising almost tripling between 2006 and
2008 and eco-labeling twice as common today than a year ago.

In its report, The Seven Sins of Greenwashing, marketing firm Terra
Choice reports that the increase of of green products on store shelves
also comes with an increase in the amount of greenwashing, or
misleading environmental claims, from advertisers.

“The good news is that the growing availability of green products
shows that consumers are demanding more environmentally responsible
choices, and that marketers and manufacturers are listening”, says Scot
Case, vice president of TerraChoice.. “The bad news is that
TerraChoice’s survey of 2,219 consumer products in the U.S. and Canada
shows that 98% committed at least one Sin of Greenwashing and that some
marketers are exploiting consumers’ demand for third-party
certification by creating fake labels or false suggestions of
third-party endorsement. Despite the number of legitimate eco-labels
out there, consumers will still have to remain vigilant in their green
purchasing decisions”.

The report lists its Seven Sins of Greenwashing, from most common to least common as:

1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off occurs when one environmental
issue is emphasized at the expense of potentially more serious
concerns. Paper, for example, is not necessarily
environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a
sustainably-harvested forest.

2. The Sin of No Proof happens when environmental assertions are not backed up by
evidence or third-party certification. One common example is facial tissue products that
claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any
supporting details.

3. The Sin of Vagueness occurs when a marketing claim is so lacking in specifics as to be
meaningless. ‘All-natural’ is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and
formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. “All natural” isn’t necessarily

4. The (new) Sin of Worshiping False Labels is when marketers create a false suggestion or
certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a
legitimate green certification process.

5. The Sin of Irrelevance arises when an environmental issue unrelated to the product is
emphasized. One example is the claim that a product is ‘CFC-free’, since CFCs are banned
by law.

6. The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils occurs when an environmental claim makes consumers
feel ‘green’ about a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic
cigarettes are an example of this Sin.

7. The Sin of Fibbing is when environmental claims are outright false. One common example
is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified.

To download the entire report, click here.

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