Study Finds Misleading Green Claims In 99% Of Products Surveyed

by | Nov 20, 2007

The Six Sins of Greenwashing, a report (PDF) by by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, found that of 1,018 common consumer products ranging from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers, randomly surveyed for the study, 99 percent were guilty of greenwashing.

“The products we surveyed made a total of 1,753 claims, and 99 percent committed at least one of the Six Sins of Greenwashing,” says TerraChoice President Scott McDougall.

Here’s the company’s tip sheet:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics
that contain hazardous materials. 998 products or 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.
2. Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,”
but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.
3. Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when
many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.
4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even
though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.
5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an
internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.
6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or
“environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.

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