How To Make A Green Pitch Without Greenwashing

16 Aug

This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of ProformaGreen, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

To capture as much information on new ideas and products coming from the convention as I could I went out and got a video camera and recorded a number of vendors talking about thier products.

The videos are on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/proformagreen.

If you are a green entrepreneur I strongly suggest you take a look at these pitches, using them as a learning tool to avoid the Six Sins of Green Washing (see www.terrachoice.com).

TerraChoice lists the sins as

Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off – e.g. paper (including household tissue, paper towel and copy paper): “Okay, this product comes from a sustainably harvested forest, but what are the impacts of its milling and transportation? Is the manufacturer also trying to reduce those impacts?” Emphasizing one environmental issue isn’t a problem (indeed, it often makes for better communications). The problem arises when hiding a trade-off between environmental issues.

Sin of No Proof – e.g. Personal care products (such as shampoos and conditioners) that claim not to have been tested on animals, but offer no evidence or certification of this claim. Company websites, third-party certifiers, and toll-free phone numbers are easy and effective means of delivering proof.

Sin of Vagueness – e.g. Garden insecticides promoted as “chemical-free.” In fact, nothing is free of chemicals. Water is a chemical. All plants, animals, and humans are made of chemicals as are all of our products. If the marketing claim doesn’t explain itself (“here’s what we mean by ‘eco’ …”), the claim is vague and meaningless. Similarly, watch for other popular vague green terms: “non-toxic”, “all-natural”, “environmentally-friendly”, and “earth-friendly.”

Sin of Irrelevance – e.g. CFC-free oven cleaners, CFC-free shaving gels, CFC-free window cleaners, CFC-disinfectants. Could all of the other products in this category make the same claim? The most common example is easy to detect: Don’t be impressed by CFC-free! Ask if the claim is important and relevant to the product. (If a light bulb claimed water efficiency benefits you should be suspicious.) Comparison-shop (and ask the competitive vendors).

Sin of Fibbing – e.g. Shampoos that claims to be “certified organic”, but for which our research could find no such certification. When I check up on it, is the claim true? The most frequent examples in this study were false uses of third-party certifications. Thankfully, these are easy to confirm. Legitimate third-party certifiers – EcoLogoCM, Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Green Guard, Green Seal (for example) – all maintain publicly available lists of certified products. Some even maintain fraud advisories for products that are falsely claiming certification.

Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils – e.g. Organic tobacco. “Green” insecticides and herbicides.
Is the claim trying to make consumers feel ‘green’ about a product category that is of questionable environmental benefit? Consumers concerned about the pollution associated with cigarettes would be better served by quitting smoking than by buying organic cigarettes. Similarly, consumers concerned about the human health and environmental risks of excessive use of lawn chemicals might create a bigger environmental benefit by reducing their use than by looking for greener alternatives.

It is very interesting listening to these pitches because some companies really seem to understand the market and some, well… not so much.

Judge for yourself who is “sinning.”

John Simonetta
www.proformagreen.com

Related Posts About Greenwashing:

Good Eco Entrepreneurs Don’t Greenwash

Nobody’s Really Going Green – Most Companies Just Pay Lip Service

Greenwashing is Lack of Self-Esteem

The Six Sins of Greenwash… and How to Repent

One Response to “How To Make A Green Pitch Without Greenwashing”

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