Beware of Greenwashing: How to Assess Environmental Claims

December 2008
by Scot Case

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Beware of Greenwashing: How to Assess Environmental Claims

by Scot Case

Growing demand has led many manufacturers to find cost-effective ways of improving their environmental performance and the environmental performance of their offerings. As a result, safer cleaning products are available, as are computers, copiers, and other office equipment without hazardous components. Cars are more efficient. Fewer trees are being cut to make paper. Less-polluting energy sources are increasingly available too.

Unfortunately, though, some manufacturers have resorted to creative advertising to compete in a market that demands “green” products.

Greenwashing—the practice of inflating the environmental benefits offered by a company or its products—appears to be growing, and purchasers are learning that they must carefully examine all environmental claims

A Brief History of Greenwashing

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when professional purchasers and individual consumers first became interested in buying green products, the following kinds of claims began appearing on goods of various kinds:

essentially nontoxic

earth-friendly

eco-safe

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