With the advent of green marketing comes a new word coined “greenwashing.” I was taught long ago that anything that has value would be mimicked with a counterfeit. This holds true for greener products. It’s a lot easier to slap a label on a product that has some general term like “eco-friendly” or “eco-conscious” than to develop a truly greener product based on a strict set of criteria. Daniel Goleman, the author of Ecological Intelligence, states that greenwashing “pollutes the data available to consumers, gumming up marketplace ef•ciency by pawning off misleading information to get us to buy things that do not deliver on their promise.” Additionally, he states that it “undermines consumer trust, it devalues sound data, instilling doubts and cynicism in customers….” (Goleman 2009)
Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) — verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental bene•ts of a product or service. (TerraChoice 2011)
During training courses, I have cautioned environmental, and health and safety professionals, to never forget the basics. Everyone loves the accolades and notoriety given by top management for winning some external environmental performance award; however, all of that is so easily forgotten when a •ne is issued for a regulatory violation. Similarly, marketers must be cognizant of making sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed when it comes to environmental claims. An increase in market share will be quickly forgotten when a major story hits the press with accusations of greenwashing.