Ethics in Eco-Marketing
What is green-washing?
Green washing is the misleading practice of changing one aspect of a product or business to something that makes it appear earth friendly when it is actually missing the mark. Examples of this are companies that claim to be sustainable or offer a sustainable product when in reality that claim does not hold up to scrutiny.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they are making small changes, but, often these same companies are also engaging in very damaging practices that more than negatively offset the good changes. So, keep that in mind the next time you see a big company telling you they are ‘green’. They may be telling the truth but when going green is popular odds are good that eco-consciousness is just being used as a marketing hook.
What about sustainability pledges?
Sustainability pledges should, surprisingly, not immediately be confused with green washing. Theses pledges, especially when made by large companies, lead to the greening of companies policy and large scale improvements in sustainability. For instance, a company who makes a pledge to recycle or reuse more of their waste product, even if the promise is made just to seem caring, will end up recycling more. The more companies with sustainable pledges, big or small, the greater the impact. Where I start to become skeptical of these pledges is when the company’s other practices are practically the opposite of sustainable. At a point the pledge can become more of a smoke and mirrors routine to get people to look the other way than something to be acclaimed.
What are examples of green washed advertising?
In the building product industry, I believe the most common examples of green washing are products which claim to be locally sourced or contain recycled content. These characteristics are great attributes to have, but, the product as a whole should be considered. Is it really that sustainable if an old growth wood product is sourced nearby or a petroleum product contains some recycled content? What kind of packaging is it using? Please ask these questions when evaluating products for use around your home or on projects.