How to Avoid Greenwashing Damnation

Be careful. Less than reputable “green” claims will sneak up and bite you.

Über hyperbole is everywhere. Especially in green marketing. So how do you avoid the damnation of being tagged a “Greenwasher” by using false or disingenuous green claims?

My friend Michael Gold of Florida branding and package design firm, Gold Forest, sent me this great Marketing Green article this morning: “Just Tell the Truth.”

It seems like such obvious advice that you wonder why it even needs to be mentioned, let alone have an entire post written about the subject. Don’t we all know and follow THE social media buzzword of 2009: “Transparency!”

Apparently not.

In the article they cover the six sins of greenwashing:

  1. The “Sin of Hidden Trade-off” This is like a 100% organic cotton shirt imprinted with a toxic dye.
  2. The “Sin of No Proof” When consumers have no way of verifying a claim.
  3. The “Sin of Vagueness” Be specific!
  4. The “Sin of Irrelevance” Using meaningless claims like “CFC-Free.” Chloroflourocarbons were banned in the 1980’s.
  5. The “Sin of Fibbing” Mark Twain once said, “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”
  6. The “Sin of Lesser of Two Evils” Ever hear of organic cigarettes?

So how do you avoid greenwashing damnation? According to post author Gil Friend, president and CEO of Natural Logic, you assess which of your products and services are honesty worthy of green claims. You make sure your current green claims are sound, legal and informative. You ask customers what aspects of “green” are most important to them. And finally, you consider the costs and benefits of having your green claims formally certified by a third party.

What green marketing “sins” have you seen out there?

(Upon further research after I initially posted this article, I found TerraChoice, the environmental marketing firm that created the six deadly sins. And now they’ve added a seventh: “The Sin of Worshiping False Labels.” You can download the study findings here.)