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Media ‘Greenwashing’ Getting Out of Control

By Kristie Turck •  Published 06/05/08 •  2 min read

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 12:02 am

I was reading an article this morning about “greenwashing” in the marketplace and it resonated with me. Especially after a few emails from readers inquiring about Clorox Green Works products. I found this article really interesting in what is really happening in order to get people to get on the green wagon. Every time I set foot in a store I see a new product touting its “organic” status, meanwhile the USDA Organic symbol is nowhere to be found.

“Consumers are inundated with products that make green claims,” stated Scott McDougall, president of Philadelphia-based TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc., in a press release. “Some are accurate, certified and verifiable, while others are just plain fibbing to sell products.”

The biggest problem is the lack of standardization of using the terms “natural” and “organic”, and therefore the lack of enforcement. The Federal Trade Commission instituted guides for “green” marketing claims called the Green Guides, which apply to al forms of marketing including ads and labels. But they are just that. Guides. Not rules or laws so nothing can really be enforced. What really chafes me is that these guides were last updated in 1998. That’s ten years ago. Imagine the technical loopholes you could get around with a 10 year old set of guidelines.

Another interesting tidbit:

A popular trend among environmental marketing and research firms is to separate the organic consumer into different segments. London-based Mintel International Group Ltd., with offices in Chicago, uses its own “shades of green” to define consumers in four main groups: Super Greens, True Greens, Light Greens and Never Green.

Super Greens are completely committed to a green lifestyle and almost always purchase green products, while the Never Greens appropriately never buy green products. But based on an August 2006 survey, the Never Green category shrank by half and the True Green/Super Green categories tripled in size in a 16-month period.

It’s no secret that “going green” is taking its spot in the forefront of marketing, as well as in people’s lives. It’s not only trendy, more people are actually starting to care. And they should! But what’s a confused consumer to do? Good question. It’s tough to tell who’s faking it. The article cites a couple of websites I wanted to point out as well. One great, one not so great.


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