Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The Seven Sins Study Launched

September 19, 2010

This past April, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. launched its Seven Sins of Greenwashing report, revealing that more products on store shelves are claiming to be green.

However, many of those "all-natural" and "organic" products were found to be committing at least one of the Seven Sins.

Between 2007 and 2009, the in-store availability of so-called "green" products has increased between 40 to 176 percent, with 98 percent of products surveyed still committing at least one Sin of Greenwashing, according to the report on the Seven Sins of Greenwashing.

Greenwashing is also changing in creative ways.

As a result, a new sin has been identified and added to the original 2007 Six Sins of Greenwashing.

The "Sin of Worshiping False Labels" means that some marketers are mimicking third-party environmental certifications on their products to entice consumers to buy.

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing, from most common to least common, are:

  1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off occurs when one environmental issue is emphasized at the expense of potentially more serious concerns. In other words, this Sin occurs when a marketing claim hides a trade-off between environmental issues. An example is a hard surface cleaner that claims to be "green" because it is biodegradable yet also contains potentially hazardous chemicals that could adversely affect human health.

  2. The Sin of No Proof happens when environmental assertions are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification. One common example is "chlorine-free" bleach that claims to be better for the environment 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 "green."

  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 passed a legitimate green certification process.

  5. The Sin of Irrelevance arises when an environmental claim may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for purchasers seeking environmentally preferable products. One example is the claim that a disinfectant spray is "Chlorofluorocarbon-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.

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

The full report and handy consumer tips can be found at www.sinsofgreenwashing.org.


Anyone interested in learning more can visit www.ecologo.org.