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November 18, 2007


Naomi Bloch

This is such a depressing report. And if something concrete isn't done to rein in these "snake oil saleman" tactics, things can get very uncertain. Consumers really do want to make better choices, but you're right, they wll turn off if becomes apparent that they are being taken.
I agree with your suggestion that an evironmental seal of approval gets established asap. Then promote the heck out of it so that these cheaters aren't able to continue riding this "green wave" on false claims.

Stephen Albinati

Interesting report which echoes some of the trends I've been noticing lately. A major tension begining to emerge is that between corporate "CSR departments" and "marketing departments."

The CSR departments are trying to make authentic progress in their companies policies and performance -- and ultimately would like to communicate that to the customers. However, quite often they do not want to use the marketing department to communicate that as they are afraid of the spin they will put too much spin on it.

After all that hard work of working with communities, stakeholders, external auditors etc. they don't want it to go down the tube with a "greenwashing" claim, as is all too common as we can see by this study.

Susie Hewson

Natracare, a European organic and ecological sound feminine hygiene product range was not even mentioned as a greener choice on the consumer site you referenced above, despite being the brand leader in this category in the USA for the past 13 years so I suspect the examination of green claims in the market place excluded Natracare otherwise you would have had two products with measurable and demonstrable claims!
Natracare organic cotton tampons are fully certified for the raw cotton at farm through cotton processing and manufacture by IFOAM accredited organic certifies under the Global Organic Textile Standards. The organic cotton used on our feminine hygiene pads and liners is also certified organic by the same IFOAM certifiers. Organic certification is an easier system to prove than the environmental claims I see abound on products in the USA and I have to compete against wild "green" claims everyday in that market.

For the past year and a half, Natracare, together with a specialist organisation, has been creating a PCR for an EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) within the feminine hygiene category, in order to demonstrate the full life cycle analysis of its products. This is a government standard and allows consumers to look at the full lifecycle effect of the raw materials, transport of those materials, energy and carbon cost of production etc. In creating the PCR for feminine hygiene, we set the bar extremely high, barring all chlorine bleached materials, pulp from unmanaged forests, petroleum and crude oil derived materials, plastic and their derivatives, polyacrylates and polyolefins. The EPD documentation from Natracare is now under third party review before being approved by the Accrediting Government standards authority.

On the way to the EPD, we were awarded the Nordic Ecolabel (SWAN) the same system as the other monitored and measured green logos you mention. We consider the green logo standards to be very low in comparison to the EPD, but this does not stop us going way beyond their standards, achieving over 90% compostability and biodegradability (measured to ISO standards) and products made from between 74% and 100% renewable materials.

I agree that green marketing is being used to fool consumers (this is one reason why we decided to take the EPD route to distinguish Natracare from false gods!) Without legislation within every category, and in absence of a consensus of true representation in advertising and labelling, the consumer will continue to be fooled and the true boundary pushers, like Natracare have to continue to compete against branding lies and mistruths. I can mention names, but only if invited to.

The Green labels are only a small part in the declaration of truth in green marketing, but the standards need to be much higher. I know that the green logo concept is to set the bar at an achievable level to encourage manufacturers to make changes, but without comparison of credentials, a brand with say - recycled (post consumer waste – first time around chlorine bleached) pulp could bear a PCW logo from the Chlorine Free Association as well as a green logo….compare the same green logo mark on Natracare, using only totally chlorine free pulp sourced from small PCF managed forests, no crude oil materials, or any of their derivative materials, but how can the consumer know which brand has the lowest effect on the environment? There is no way of finding out or comparing product impact or which is the best "Green" choice across products in relation to its impact on the environment despite bearing a green logo. What is the impact in terms of raw material extraction and processing, carbon foot print of processing and manufacture and transport from first to final stage, energy use, water and waste, product disposal impact?
Natracare has been proven to be the best environmental choice by SWAN (Nordic ecolabel) LOHAS ( Korean Standards Institute) but we know that the EPD is the definitive method of determining the full effect of Natracare products, and we know this is low because we designed them to be that way.
We hope that consumers are not turned away from seeking organic and more ecological choices in products and lifestyle by those using greenwash marketing.
Thank you for your patience in my expression of frustration of the perversion of the Green message by others and the "eyewash" pervaded on some websites by people extolling themselves as green crusaders. Lets see the data!


I think we should come together to create an association which would approve a product as being green or not. This way it would allow consumers to make a better choice and differentiate between a real one and a product which is faking it.

Though it would be a big task it could be thought in those lines, because people have started realising the importance of being green and if this is going to be used for marketing purposes then this would make the consumer avoid those products including the real ones.

Jacob Malthouse

We're also concerned about greenwashing. That's one of the reasons we started the first global independent directory of ecolabels: Ecolabelling.org. The site also has a blog that specifically discusses the ecolabelling industry around the world. We are planning to roll out additional metrics over the next year. The site is currently in beta and comments are welcome.

Georjean Adams

The FTC guidelines are solid. Not surprisingly, this administration hasn't given high priority for enforcement. Doing so would make all the green admen sit up and get cautious, just like it did in the early 90's. I chaired a Fortune 500 corporate review committee and the threat of FTC action is an effective brake on marketing puffery.

The last thing we need is more bureaucracy and costly and restrictive approval and labeling schemes. States are en route to demanding "Green Seals" on products they purchase and companies are forced to pay whatever Green Seal[or pick a third party] chooses and to meet whatever standards for approval it decides if they want to be on the buy list.

The FTC standards of 1) technically accurate and 2) not misleading are straightforward and enforceable. Use them to support innovation of truly green products.

Knut Grunwald

Green is hard to measure. To do so you have to compare the usefulness against the effect on the environment.

In Germany there is the "Blauer Engel" (Blue Angel) Label, which is given to you, if you are substantially better than the market at environmental effect.
But if the market is really bad, the label is easy to get.

And what do you accept as performance ? Porsche claims they will have the least CO2 emission per PS (Horsepower) with their hybrid next year.

And what about stuff not included into the analysis, because nobody mentioned it in the description ?

Until there is a consent about measuring benefit vs environmental cost, there will be misleading claims. And since false claims don't cost a lot in most countries, you may use them to sell your goods.

So i applaude the report since it is one step in the right direction.


Why is it so hard to find the list of companies that TerraChoice evaluated?
What is the big secret?
What is the name of the one paper company that was named the best?

Sean Gibson

Thankfully, the web helps ensure transparency like no other. Internal email leaks, pictures of e-waste piles, and grassroots campaigns seem to have more power on the web than banner ads with pictures of dirty industry brands and frolicking dolphins, and microsites that put a pretty face on companies that are not authentic in their efforts.

Greenwashing should get harder and harder to do (with net neutrality protected), especially as standards and ratings become stronger, whether that's FTC guidelines, ENERGY STAR, Green-e, TruCost, more segmented SRI fund criteria, etc.

But to Tallmom's point, ironic that TerraChoice wasn't transparent in who the one exception to the rule was (probably not to appear to endorse).

Bob Langert

I just did a blog addressing a related issue that might be an unintended consequence of avoiding the Six Sins. I call it "greenmuting." I think equally bad is not talking about the environmental advances in the right way because we need to stir more consumer awareness. Check it out at csr.mcdonalds.com.


Do you think serious ECO-FATIGUE is upon us, that independent and experienced consumers are fed up with being told what to do, or, more specifically, told what not to do. Will they increasingly rebel against the green movement’s obsession with ‘no’.


"The sin of the hidden tradeof" is an unreasonably high standard to meet. You are now asking people to try to take into account the carbon balance, sustainability, and for all I know child labor factors into account. Sure an inefficient recycling program might actually use more energy than an efficient harvesting program and manufacturing program, but then you have to assign a value to keeping the waste out of a landfill.

Bryan Welch

If sustainability is a new aspect of quality, then the truly green will always have that advantage. Still, we have to be good marketers.

Will O'Neill

This report is disheartening but mostly for the fact that I may fall for this type of marketing. It makes sense that companies would pursue this type of marketing given our country's growing consciousness of the drastic problems our planet is faced with.

It seems to me this is the same situation that arose after the Atkins Diet craze. Everyone became worried about carbs and within months our grocery shelves were saturated with countless low-carb products. It's sad but with our consumer-heavy culture, advertising "green" is a hot-button that companies know will generate sales.


Steaz soda and sparkling green tea is loaded with sugar - "empty" carbs. yet it is organic. It still has all of the health implications associated with sugar - heart, diabetes, etc. and soda -

it just has an organic labeling so people think it is good for them and the planet. they deliver the stuff in vans that get about 10 miles to the gallon and the founders drive big SUV's. Green-tea washing...

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