"Greenwashing" is the term used to describe misleading environmental benefits and its something that consumers will need to be aware of more and more. Many nations are beginning to respond with demands for more exacting definitions as to what is truly "green" just as was done in the past for benefits like "low calorie" or "nonfat" (Ex: Norway has banned the terms green, environmentally friendly, and clean from car ads.). The United States has been slow to respond but the FTC is preparing to update its consumer Green Guide.
In the meantime, check out EnviroMedia's Greenwashing Index, a site where consumers can rate ads as to their "green" truthfulness. Also, take a look at the TerraChoice web site which lists its Six Sins of Greenwashing. Here are a couple:
- Hidden trade-off: Like Ethanol - possibly a cleaner-burning fuel but more environmental harm is done to produce it thereby outweighing any benefits.
- Irrelevance: Promoting an environmental benefit that is already dictated by law.
I have always said that companies can find "gold in going green". But they need to be doing it for the right reasons and with honesty and integrity.