10 ways to spot Green Wash

When you are next looking at a ‘green’ product or service, think about doing the following:

ASK – exactly what is ‘green’ about this product, what is it made off, where and how is it made, are the materials used ‘green’. Is there any health risk associated with the product through toxins and chemicals? At end of life, is it recyclable (or preferably ‘up-cycled’), or is it bio degradable, does it provide food for another living thing?

LOOK at what the whole company is doing about being ‘Green’.  Does it employ locals; have a corporate sustainability policy or a fair trade policy.  Are their policies public, does it include environmental sustainable processes and does it measure it’s social, economic and environmental footprint?  It should also be mentioned in the company’s Annual Report.

So here’s what to look for…

  1. Vague or ‘fluffy’ language, using words with no clear meaning (eg eco-friendly) 
  2. Green products vs dirty company – eg energy efficient light bulbs that are made in a factory that pollutes rivers and uses child labour
  3. Suggestive pictures – images that indicate an unjustified green impact (eg flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
  4. Irrelevant claims – emphasising one tiny green attribute when the rest of the product and how it is made is not ‘green’.
  5. Best in class? – declaring they are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible.
  6. Just not credible – eco-friendly cigarettes anyone?  Greening a dangerous product doesn’t make it safe.
  7. Gobbledygook – jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand.
  8. Imaginary friends – a ‘label’ that looks like a third party endorsement, except it’s made up.
  9. No proof – you could be right but where’s the evidence?
  10. Out-right lying – totally fabricated claims or data.

Source: These 10 green wash points have been reproduced from the Futerra Greenwash Guide at www.futerra.co.uk   See their website for the full guide and loads of other useful information on sustainability from the UK.