The Sins of Greenwashing, Home and Family Edition, recently released by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc., reports that the use of fake eco-labels — the seventh "sin"— has increased dramatically, up 32 percent from 26.8 percent in 2009.
Here''s our two cents:
Not only is the use of fake labels terribly unfair to consumers — who are already more confused than ever about what "green" really means — but it also hinders progress in the retail space to both market and sell genuinely "greener" products.
When nearly every product bears what appears to be a "green" badge or certification mark, how is a consumer to protect him or herself from bogus and potentially harmful claims?
Ultimately, companies that resort to greenwashing tactics, such as fake labeling, are doing more damage than good — not only to consumers, but also to their own brands.
And, for companies that strive to produce genuinely "greener" products, self-proclaimed green attributes are simply not enough: They''ve got to prove it.
That''s why third-party certifications — independent, unbiased and unaffiliated with industry groups — are so important.
Third-party certifications help cut through the clutter of greenwashing by verifying environmental claims so that the consumer doesn''t have to.
As the TerraChoice report rightly pointed out, EcoLogo and the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute are among the most credible, reputable third-party certifiers out there — and both are good resources for finding independently vetted products.
Green Seal Inc. is also a reputable certifier.
Speaking for our organization, in particular, GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality certification and GREENGUARD Children & Schools certification both require independent testing and hard, objective science to demonstrate that a product is low-emitting; a manufacturer''s self-reported information is not enough.
To find GREENGUARD certified low-emitting products, consumers can visit www.greenguard.org and click on the "Quick Product Search" button.
We applaud TerraChoice for continuing to shed light on the issue of false and/or misleading environmental claims in the marketplace, and we hope it spurs manufacturers to think twice about the labels they use.
The good news is that the report finds the use of greenwashing tactics to ever-so-slightly down, which provides a glimmer of hope.
Still, we encourage consumers to do their homework about a product and its eco-label before making a purchase.
Researching labels may take a little more time and effort on the front end, but it''s absolutely worth it.