In honor of the holidays, I'm posting this amusing list of the top 5 greenwashes of the year that Triple Pundit put together. Topping the list are the healthy certification of "Froot Loops," an ad campaign that blamed immigrants for climate change in California, blaming dictatorship on Fiji water, and the Siggs brands' damaging revelation that the bottles did include BPA despite being known as the environmentalists' reusable water bottle of choice.
Posted Dec. 22, 2009
By Ashwin, Seshagiri, Triple Pundit
Triple Pundit has had a heck of a year. With your help we’ve grown
to be one of the most widely read online publications about sustainable
business, brought in many new contributors, and helped stoke the fires
of a new, green economy in many new places. We hope you’ve had a great
time reading and engaging with us and we’re ready to kick of January
with a lot of new features, partnerships, and content.
To celebrate the end of the year, our crack team of editors has put
together a few top-five lists for the year, including this one…the top
five greenwash stories of 2009.
“Smart Choices” Food Label Recommends “Froot Loops”
As if our obsessive-compulsive nutrition culture was not frenetic
enough with the deluge of conflicting reports and industry funded
studies about diet, a food labeling project called “Smart Choices”
launched earlier this year, a pseudo certification to help shoppers
identify “smarter food and beverage choices.”
“Smarter Choices” for consumers include Froot Loops and Cocoa
Crispies, arguing that sugary cereals are a better choice than a donut.
The article provides an interesting glimpse into complicated food
policy in the U.S., and how the “smarter” choices conveniently align
with major corporate food industry interests.
Latisse: The Hilarity of FDA Approved Prescription Eyelash Treatment
Spokeswoman Brooke Shields wants to tell you about the miracle
anti-aging cure: bimatoprost ophthalmic solution. Oh, if that’s a too
hard to pronounce, just call it Latisse, an FDA-approved treatment for
“inadequate” eyelashes. Latisse, interestingly, is the same product as
controversial drug Lumigen, which was developed to treat glaucoma.
Though the applications are different, with a little clever
marketing and re-branding, the makers behind the two drugs hoped to
sidestep one nagging side effect of their use: studies have shown
Lumigen to permanently change iris pigmentation in patients who take
that drug. It ultimately begs the question… what is the real price of
California Group Blames Immigrants for Climate Change
In perhaps one of the more sensational stories of the year, an
anti-immigration group created a multimedia ad campaign blaming
immigrants for climate change and environmental degradation in
California. Californians for Population Stabilization, or CAP, argues
that immigrants, legal and illegal, increase their carbon footprint
four-fold when they move to the US and “Americanize” their consumption
habits, thus exacerbating climate problems.
Though, the premise of the argument may have come from a seemingly
logical starting point, the group has been criticized for grossly
skewing the facts about its claims, not to mention it has been
associated neo-Nazi groups in Southern California.
Does Drinking FIJI Water Prop Up a Dictatorship?
Similarly to Wal-Mart and McDonald’s these days, FIJI water has earned
the recognition for being one of the best and worst brands out there in
terms of the environment. The folks over at Mother Jones,
however, took the story one step further, claiming that FIJI water is
propping up a military dictatorship in the island nation.
This piece was an insightful reflection by 3p founder and publisher,
examining the back and forth between Mother Jones’ editors and
spokespeople from the bottled water company. If nothing else, it shows
how issues like these aren’t as simplistic and idyllic as the images of
paradise depicted on the bottles.
Surprise! Sigg Bottles Did Contain BPA After All
In keeping with the theme of water, the next story is one filled with
BPA-laden tears. Easily, over the course of recent years, Sigg’s metal
water bottles became the symbol of healthy environmentalism as hordes
of proud greenies from all over marched around carrying the bottles as
badges of honor.
There was one, slightly-embarrassing problem with all of it. Sigg
bottles were revealed to contain Bisphenol A, commonly known as
BPA–which is the substance that turned greenies away from plastic
bottles in the first place, and which Sigg had earlier said it did not
If 2009 Was the Year of the Greenwash, What Does 2010 Have in Store?
From extremist, potentially white-supremacist groups to the
socio-political ramifications of purchasing a brand from across the
globe, 2009 has been an interesting year to see how people tried to
negotiate what green means to them. It is a sign that sustainability as
an ethos is still very much being defined, that green marketing and
green business principles aren’t always aligned.
But as Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine prophetically claimed in his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price,
for every video of a cat spinning in an office chair on YouTube, there
might also be the next genius business model of online video somewhere
out there. Perhaps for every preposterous greenwash story that’s out
there, someone is also re-inventing what business will be like in the
new economy. Here’s to hope for the next decade…
For more of 3p’s highlights from 2009, check out the Top Five Startup Posts of the Year from yesterday. Plus, stay tuned tomorrow for the best overall stories of the year.