A report recently released by TerraChoice found that over 95 percent of “green” home and family products on the market today employ misleading labeling and advertising tactics.
The study also found that big box retailers stock more “green” products that provide legitimate environmental certifications than smaller “green” boutique-style stores.
TerraChoice is a North American environmental marketing company and part of Underwriters Laboratories’ global network. These startling results were released as part of its third annual “The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition” report.
Greenwashing is a problem across all industries, and has contributed to consumer skepticism about the wisdom of paying extra or going out of their way for products marketed as green. TerraChoice defines greenwashing as “the act of misleading consumers about the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”
Researchers surveyed 5,296 products with environmental claims from retailers in the U.S. and Canada. Categories included baby care products, toys, office products, building and construction products, cleaning products, housewares, health and beauty products, and consumer electronics.
According to the report, the seven “sins of greenwashing” are:
1. Sin of the hidden trade-off
2. Sin of no proof
3. Sin of vagueness
4. Sin of irrelevance
5. Sin of lesser than two evils
6. Sin of fibbing
7. Sin of worshipping false labels
One positive finding was that overall, greenwashing has declined slightly since 2009, with 4.5 percent of products now “sin-free”, compared to only 2 percent in 2009. Consumers can be encouraged by the fact that marketers and product manufacturers are controlling their misleading impulses, with greenwashing down among those who have been focused on environmentally preferable practices longer than others.
If you’ve been making your shopping choices based on whether or not they have been certified by a third-party organization, you’re far less likely to be duped by a greenwashing claim, as the study found that more than 30 percent of products carrying seals of independent certification were completely “sin free.”
Read the full report here.