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Study Finds Misleading Green Claims In 99% Of Products Surveyed

The Six Sins of Greenwashing, a report (PDF) by by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, found that of 1,018 common consumer products ranging from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers, randomly surveyed for the study, 99 percent were guilty of greenwashing.

“The products we surveyed made a total of 1,753 claims, and 99 percent committed at least one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing,” says TerraChoice President Scott McDougall.

Here’s the company’s tip sheet:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics
that contain hazardous materials. 998 products or 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.
2. Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,”
but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.
3. Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when
many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.
4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even
though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.
5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an
internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.
6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or
“environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.

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2 thoughts on “Study Finds Misleading Green Claims In 99% Of Products Surveyed

  1. Ecolabels are a key tool in sorting out the green from the greenwash. We just launched http://www.ecolabelling.org to make it easier for producers and consumers to understand who is deciding what’s green.

    The site is now the world’s largest independent global database of ecolabels. You can use it for anything from building a green shopping list or as a quick and easy procurement strategy.

  2. Terrachoice is a for-profit company that created a bias marketing campaign to push Ecologo (the logo they manage). My wife bought some Ecologo products a while back and noticed greenwashing on the labels. What a farce; that makes Terrachoice and Ecologo sinners! This prompted me to check out Ecologo standards. I was surprised to learn that they are so old they cannot really represent environmental leadership anymore?! Others only have a single criterion statement (another sin); where is the life-cycle approach they promised on their website (another lie)?! Check out their website and download the standards and see for yourself… Shame on Terrachoice for pointing the finger at others, when they cannot deliver. Most eco-labels are not worth paying extra money, because we have no idea of the real environmental savings. All we have here is hypocrisy, marketing spin, and a very bad marketing campaign. It’s all a scam. Beware!

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