Posts tagged ‘FTC’

Greenwashing: What is it, how do we evaluate it, and what does it mean?

This post provides some answers to these questions and some points to ponder.

First, the term greenwashing is taken from the term whitewashing. Whitewashing means to hide, cover or conceal unpleasant facts or details, especially in a political context or to manipulate. According to the Greenwashing Index, Greenwashing is:

“It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.”

Knowing this information, enter in the Greenwashing Index, promoted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. The purpose of the Greenwashing Index is “to educate consumers about how to “read” an ad and encourage them to decide for themselves if what they’re seeing is greenwashing.” The index hopes to curb the growth of greenwashing and encourage real environmental responsibility and change.

The index measures and scores advertising claims based on the following five criteria:

  1. The ad misleads with words.
  2. The ad misleads with visuals and/or graphics.
  3. The ad makes a green claim that is vague or seemingly unprovable.
  4. The ad overstates or exaggerates how green the product/company/service actually is.
  5. The ad leaves out or masks important information, making the green claim sound better than it is.

To detect greenwashing, Sourcewatch offers the following tips:

  1. Follow the money trail.
  2. Follow the membership trail.
  3. Follow the paper trail.
  4. Look for skeletons in the company’s closet.
  5. Test for access to information.
  6. Test for international consistency.
  7. Check how they handle their critics.
  8. Test for consistency over time.

As my previous post mentioned, the FTC began a workshop of hearings yesterday a year early about the growing buzz and concerns regarding green marketing. To listen to the FTC hearings about the, click here. The workshops could results in updating the FTC’s green guides, which outlines the FCC’s laws regarding environmental claims for advertiser, marketers and consumers. These guidelines were originally created in 1992. Though the green guides were updated in 1998, they haven’t been changed since.

Now the final piece: What does this mean to us….as social marketers?

Personally, I think evaluation tools are great, despite the lack of them and the lack of priority in evaluation processes. The evaluation step is one too many organization and marketing directors overlook or skip. I see the Greenwashing Index as another great evaluations tool for us, and I offer up the suggestion that perhaps we should have more such evaluation tools to help keep the private sector accountable and responsible. Doing such, I think, would increase our success in our social marketing endeavors.

More on evaluation procedures and steps in the next post. =)

January 11, 2008 at 9:14 pm 2 comments

Defining Green, Including the FTC

Nowadays, when someone says Green, what’s the first thing that pops in your mind?

…a color? a movement? a cause? a political party? earth? environmentalists? global warming? a marketing tactic? Al Gore? Recycling?

Being a full supporter of going green, I still want to stand back, observe and ask the question: In today’s world, how do we, you, define the word green?

…Even the FTC is struggling to answer this very question. Today, the FTC held its first green marketing workshop to discuss its green advertising regulations a YEAR early because of the growing buzz…and concern! Check out this article for more information about the meeting.

It’s interesting how the choice of diction creates images or perceptions in our minds. Green, or going green, is becoming a mantra for environmental movements and going green is the new trend of ’08…or was it the trend of ’07? Even the AMA (American Marketing Association) has adopted the movement and now acknowledges the concept ‘green marketing.’ GreenBiz, a green conscious information resources that tracks companies eco-friendliness, offers green marketing as one of their hot topics by offering features about the various shades of green that run in-style among us marketers.

However what does being green really mean? In 2006, this same question was asked in an article written by Brandweek titled: Companies Find It’s Not Easy Marketing Green. In the article, the authors state quote:

“Spiraling fuel prices and global warming fears have increasingly put environmental issues on the front page and in advertising efforts. But as more companies adopt these campaigns, consumers are growing increasingly confused over what it means to be “green,” making it harder to create effective environmental marketing efforts, according to a recently released study by Landor Associates, New York.

“Is it about the environment, organic food or ‘good-for-you’ living? … It could be about all of those things,” said Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor. “It is easy to say you are green, but consumers are skeptical. And because everyone wants to jump on the green bandwagon, all of a sudden it is noisy in this space, and it is hard to break through.”

The article continues offering statistics on how consumers are weary of the increasing levels of products, services and companies who claim to be green. Though it is an older article, the trend seems to escalate still today, just do a Google search for ‘green marketing’ and it becomes clear that the term continues to grow discussion, especially since the FTC even took notice.

  • So, how do we as social marketing break through the clutter?
  • What does this trend mean for us?
  • And, what does the word ‘green’ mean to you?

Feel free to share your thoughts. This discussion will be continued in my next post. =)

To get a sneak peak about the next post, read this article about greenwashing

January 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment


Meet Alexandra Rampy, aka SocialButterfly

I am a social marketing believer, blogger, practitioner, researcher and enthusiast. This site highlights the growing movement of social marketing. Learn more about social marketing and how to be your own socialbutterfly--> here.

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