Why is this a problem?


TerraChoice lists these significant consequences of greenwashing:

  • Well-intentioned consumers may be misled into purchases that do not deliver on their environmental promise. This means both that the individual consumer has been misled and that the potential environmental benefit of his or her purchase has been squandered.

  • Competitive pressure from illegitimate environmental claims takes market share away from products that offer more legitimate benefits, thus slowing the penetration of real environmental innovation in the marketplace.

  • greenseallogo1.gifGreenwashing may create cynicism and doubt about all environmental claims. Consumers – particularly those who care most about real environmental progress – may give up on marketers and manufacturers, and give up on the hope that their spending might be put to good use. This would eliminate a significant market-based, financial incentive for green product innovation and leave committed environmental advocates with government regulations as the most likely alternative.

What are the six sins of greenwashing?

  1. energystarlogo1.gifSin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. ‘Energy-efficient’ electronics that contain hazardous materials.
  2. Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be ‘certified organic’, but with no verifiable certification.
  3. Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde.
  4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago.
  5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognised environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal.
  6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or ‘environmentally friendly’ pesticides.

What can you do to ensure you aren’t a victim of greenwashing?

sixsinsani.gifLook for eco-labels. These internationally recognised standards are one of the most effective tools to avoid greenwashing. Organisations like EcoLogo, Green Seal and Energy Star provide public listings of their certified products and standards.

Look for evidence of any of the six sins. Do your research and check the product website for more complete information. Verify any certification claims on the third-party organisation’s online listings.

Contact Greenrock. Greenrock has been monitoring the effects of ‘greenwashing’ in Bermuda. If you have questions or you want to promote a product or service, let us know. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Visit the TerraChoice website at www.terrachoice.com for more information about greenwashing and to read the complete results of the study.

Source: ‘The Six Sins of Greenwashing: A study of environmental claims in North American consumer markets’, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc., November 2007.

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