The 7 Sins of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a marketing strategy where a product or service is portrayed as eco-friendly when, in fact, it may not be.  It is a way that marketers pull the wool over the eyes of consumers.  Greenwashing is the environmental version of whitewashing.

There are 7 sins of Greenwashing.

1)      Sin of Hidden Trade-Off – Anytime companies market only one green aspect of their product when there is another aspect that is environmentally un-friendly.  An example is office technological equipment that boasts about the item’s energy efficient attributes without addressing any hazardous material content or compatibility with recycled paper or cartridges.

2)      Sin of No- Proof – Any claim that cannot be readily supported with accessible proof or reliable third party certification.

3)      Sin of Vagueness – Any claim that is not elaborated and/or poorly defined or vastly broad.  It could be a true claim – just not the whole truth.  An example is when a label claims a product is “all natural.”  Substances can be “natural” and bad for our health at the same time; i.e. arsenic, mercury, and formaldehyde are all natural!  “Non- Toxic” also falls under this category; anything can be toxic in large enough doses.

4)      Sin of Irrelevance – Any claim that is true but unhelpful, unimportant and ultimately distracting from the issue at hand.  Ask yourself if the statement or claim is important to the product in question?  Some products claim to be CFC-free which a true statement however may be irrelevant is because it has been a requirement by law since 1978 to not use CFC (ozone depleting chemicals) in products.

5)      Sin of Lesser of Two Evils – Any claims that are true within a product category but are only made to divert the consumers’ attention from any greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.  Terra Choice uses the example of “organic cigarettes” or “green pesticides” which both seem oxymoronic.

6)      Sin of Fibbing – Any environmental claims that are simply false.

7)      Sin of Worshipping False Labels – A company that ‘paints a picture’ of eco-friendliness with an enticing label that, at first glance, appears to have third party endorsement by a bonified environmental company when in fact no such certification exists.

Environmental marketing company Terra Choice published in the 2010 edition of its “Sins of Greenwashing” report, that they found some form of greenwashing in more than 95% of consumer products labeled as “green.”

The best way to protect yourself from getting duped by marketing companies and being “greenwashed” is to educate yourself on the important environmental issues at hand when it comes to purchasing products.  Familiarize yourself with the most trust-worthy eco certification labels; that will help you spot those products that are truly ecofriendly – or otherwise!

Envision Commercial Cleaning uses green cleaning products as well as techniques that are certified by trusted sources.  Call us today for your free cleaning quote!  Envision Green Clean Team will not only clean your facility but also can offer information regarding our products and practices.


  • The “Six Sins of GreenwashingTM”

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