The Battle Against Greenwashing

There’s a lot of angst in the marketplace these days about greenwashing – for good reason. Everyone wants to be green, whether it is justified or not.

The SFI program welcomes government and consumer programs that expose misleading labels and claims, because we believe there has to be mechanisms to help consumers differentiate solid programs with third-party certification audits from whimsical claims lacking integrity and substance.

A recent Green Living Online article, Will New Green Guidelines Help Consumers?, referenced two watchdog groups – the Competition Bureau of Canada and TerraChoice Environmental Marketing – that both accept SFI certification as a credible program.

In an environmental labeling standard issued a year ago, Environmental Claims: A Guide for Industry and Advertisers, the Competition Bureau says sustainability is hard to verify so the best thing to do is identify forest products as having come from a forest certified to a standard such as SFI, the Canadian Standards Association, the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes.

And just this year, in its Seven Sins of Greenwashing report, TerraChoice says SFI labels meet its criteria as an eco-label that can be trusted because we are third party certified, have a publicly available standard and a transparent standard development process.

The Green Living Online article asked if the Competition Bureau’s advertising guidelines mean consumers can be more confident they are getting a straight bill of goods. It quotes TerraChoice President Scott McDougall as saying yes, as long as the guidelines are enforced.

Scott knows what he is talking about. In research for its latest report, TerraChoice found that 98 percent of more than 2,000 product claims misled consumers in some way.

I absolutely agree with him. We need rules, and they have to be enforced. The value of credible brands is diminished by false claims that cannot be trusted.

For example, there are claims in the marketplace that pretend recycled paper is “tree free”. This is not just confusing for consumers it is misleading because recycled paper still has a significant portion of fiber derived from trees. These claims should stick with the facts. If the paper contains recycled content, say that – don’t pretend it is something it is not. Misleading claims like these undermine credible claims of recycled content and cast a cloak of uncertainty over other claims and programs that are credible and helpful to consumers.

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  1. Pingback: The Battle Against Greenwashing « Sustainable Forestry Initiative Newsroom

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