Environmental preferability is a major trend that pervades all industry sectors. In the cleaning industry alone, we have witnessed explosive growth in the number of green products in the marketplace, including chemical-based cleaners, jansan paper products, powered cleaning equipment, and other product categories. Likewise, we have also witnessed a proliferation in the use of green marketing claims.
Unfortunately, the increase in green marketing claims has also given rise to an increase in marketing claims that have been characterized as “greenwash.” Stated simply, greenwash refers to those claims related to environmental preferability that are false or misleading.
ISSA strongly discourages companies from engaging in the practice of greenwash for several reasons. First, companies that engage in this practice run the risk of seriously damaging their reputation in the marketplace. In addition, companies that employ such marketing tactics may be subject to enforcement actions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or state authorities. Lastly, greenwash only serves to tarnish the industry’s reputation and credibility as it relates to claims of environmental preferability.
To help companies avoid making false or misleading claims related to environmental preferability, ISSA offers the following resources.
FTC: Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims
Some years ago, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims for the purpose of helping marketers avoid making unfair or deceptive environmental claims. FTC can take legal action under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act if a business makes environmental-marketing claims inconsistent with the guides. The Green Guides outline general principles that apply to all environmental-marketing claims. They describe the basic elements necessary to substantiate environmental-marketing claims and present options for qualifying specific claims to avoid deception.
TerraChoice: The Six Sins of Greenwashing
Based on an extensive survey of products, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, Inc. found that the practice of greenwashing is extensive. Based on the survey results, TerraChoice identified six patterns in the practice of greenwashing, which they dubbed the “Six Sins of Greenwashing.” In its report, TerraChoice describes these six pervasive patterns. We urge you to review this material as it sets forth examples of green-marketing claims to avoid, while also providing recommendations to marketers and consumers alike.