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Certified WBENC Women's Business Enterprise

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True eco-benefits vs. greenwashing, Part II

by Renita Van Dusen

Kermit the Frog famously sang, “It’s not easy being green.” Well, to environmentally conscious consumers’ dismay, these days it seems being green – or claiming your company or product is green – is perhaps too easy. As some companies have tried to mislead consumers with claims, trying to figure out what’s truly eco-friendly can be increasingly frustrating.  Several websites search out this misleading behavior, known as “greenwashing,” including Treehugger, Stopgreenwash.org, and the Big Green Purse blog. SinsofGreenwashing.org even gives a thorough annual report of what it calls “The Seven Sins of Greenwashing”:

1. The hidden trade off: Celebrating one positive environmental impact while ignoring others. For example, you make a product using solar energy, yet the product’s contents are very damaging to the environment.

2. No proof of your claim.

3. Vagueness: Terms like “natural” and “environmentally friendly” that aren’t explained

4. False labels: Unaccredited or even made-up certification labels

5. Irrelevance: Making a claim that’s worthless. For example, saying your product is CFC-free. CFC’s have been banned for years.

6. Lesser of two evils: For example, saying a particular SUV is better for the environment. True, it’s better than a Hummer, but it isn’t better than smaller cars.

7. Outright fibbing

Why is it important to avoid greenwashing? Well, first of all because it’s the right thing to do ethically. But it’s also important because the Federal Trade Commission is expected to crack down on environmental marketing claims, which will be updated this year for the first time since 1998.

Women + Green = Solutions
Here are some easy solutions to implement with your brand to make sure you won’t be accused of greenwashing:
Set a meaningful example. Be proactive.

Make the choice easy. Positively impacting the environment might be the tipping point for your brand.

Listen & act. Leverage social media to your advantage.

Communicate! Women talk.