We all have visions of the slick-haired-snake-oil-peddlers and have an instinctive fear to stay away, far away from them. But as all species evolve to survive, the Slick Willy Salesperson has now turned into the Eco-Friendly promoter of Sustainable Products.
For those not familiar with the term, Greenwashing is “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Derivatives greenwashing (n). Origin from green on the pattern of whitewash.” according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.
It is quite obvious that Corporate America has caught on to the trend of Greenwashing. After all “Green is green as in the color of money” according to one of the Directors of GE back in 2006, (not to say that General Electric is Greenwashing) and has become today’s Greenwashing slogan.
“It’s too easy being green” was the starting title of a statement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released Jun 9, 2009. The statement was in response to actions taken by the FTC against K-Mart, Tender, and Dyna-E in which they alleged products were biodegradable when they were not. K-Mart and Tender semi-quickly admitted to Greenwashing and agreed to settle the claim while Dyna-E is preparing to litigate. Another aspect of the statement is to revise the Guide for the Use of Marketing Environmental Claims, also known as the ‘Green Guides’.
So how does the normal person compete against billion dollar marketing budgets and entire divisions of these Slick Willy Salesmen? Through trusted expert advice who helps separate the Hog from the Wash
. But what happens when some of the experts become Slick Willy Salesmen, because after all “Green is green as is the color of money”?
Then the normal person has to be very careful about who they trust as a source of information. All over the internet tons of companies will ‘certify’ something as Green without asking any real questions or checking any credentials. Related to ‘Diploma Mills’, except they paint themselves green making them ‘Green Mills’.
Although there are a few Governmental organizations that offer certifications for products and services, it is not enough to regulate the industry as a whole. The green industry has been treated in the same manner as the real estate industry; left for the market to correct itself.
Some decent organizations have come forth to help regulate the industry, including the United States Green Building Council’s LEED certification, the International Organization for Standards 14000 series, the Environmental Protections Agency’s DfE, and the Sierra Club Green Home’s GreenCheck . These have all contributed greatly into the regulating of the industry.
While the industry is doing some green cleaning of its own, consumers need to be wary of what someone says is Natural, Sustainable, etc. That unregulated industry is an open battlefield where corporate America is invading the Tree Huggers turf. Just like the scene The Last March of the Ents from the Lord of the Rings movie, where the mythical tree creatures destroy the tower of an evil wizard who cut down a forest.
My only hope is that more industry companies will get involved to regulate in industry against the Greenwashing and the GreenMills, before it’s too late.