The Guardian Takes on Greenwashing
New Columng Targets False Sustainability Claims
From TreeHugger's own "Greenwash Watch" posts that have discussed everything from inaccurate green claims about vinyl siding to GM's advertising, through to MTV's catchy ditty about Greenwashing, we're certainly no strangers to the idea that green marketing claims can sometimes be over-exaggerated, or just plain lies. Now the UK's Guardian newspaper looks set to start exploring these territories on a regular basis, with a new column focusing on the sins of Greenwash. Here's a little excerpt from the first instalment:
"In the real world, we have to admit, things can be nuanced. Lots of corporate claims - about carbon neutrality, for instance - hang on exactly what activities are being audited. Take Manchester airport, which was outed in a recent report from the sustainable development organisation, Forum for the Future. Last year the airport's owners pledged to make the airport carbon-neutral, with one small caveat: the target does not include the 200,000-plus flights into and out of the airport each year. As Forum for the Future observed, "this jars somewhat".
And what are we to make of Fiji Water's claims to be cutting the carbon footprint of its water by 25% and offsetting the rest? "Every drop is green," it says. But isn't the whole idea of bottling water on a remote South Pacific island and shipping it to your dinner table just a tiny bit barmy?"
The article concludes with some general hints on how to spot a fake - think "ludicrously general", "overly specific" or, somewhat tongue in cheek, "reliant on nature pictures". It also includes suggestions on how to spot the real thing - look for, among other things, partnerships with independent organizations, specific goals and targets, and a willingness to go beyond immediate commercial gain (supermarkets charging for plastic bags, or power companies encouraging conservation, for example).
I'm delighted to see another voice calling out greenwash, but I hope the new column will maintain a sense of pragmatism. While we must expose lies and exaggerations, and we must push for more and faster change from just about everyone, we should also remember to applaud sound sustainability initiatives, even from companies who do not have their house completely in order. The right balance between organically grown carrot, and sustainably harvested stick, is a tricky one to maintain — but it is vital to the future of sustainability.
More on Greenwashing
MTV Switch Targets Greenwashing
Greenwash Watch: The Return of Political Greenwash
Greenwash Watch: Wasara Paper Products
Greenwash Watch: Gwyn Morgan on GM Advertising
How to Spot Greenwashing
Complaints Against Greenwashing Quadruple in the UK
Six Sins of Greenwashing