Green Business Bureau Blog


Green and Greenwash Defined by Lawmakers


There is no dispute that green products are becoming more and more competitive in today’s market. With green consciousness advertised by green organizations and the government, many consumers prefer green products over its competitors. Energy Star labeled products are widely becoming a hit among companies and individuals.

But with the advent of green revolution, there is also a growing unease and argument among products that are truly green and others that just claims so.

In a House Subcommittee hearing on how to regulate green marketing claims, the Associate Director of the Bureau of Consumer’s Protection enforcement division at the Federal Trade Commission says:

“In the past few years, there has been a virtual tsunami of environmental marketing.

Although the Associate Director said that some of the claims are genuine innovations in efficiency, recycling and materials use, there are others that are greenwash. defines Greenwash or Greenwashing as:

“(Greenwashing) is as term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

Since becoming green is a new concept, there are no clear regulations on how to go about green marketing. Business owners advertise their products as green and environment friendly while in fact there is very little if no basis to support their claims.

In 2008, Greenpeace introduced Stop Greenwash to curtail businesses that uses environmentalism as a convenient slogan. The website states:

“The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.”

It is within this premise that lawmakers have conducted the hearing entitled “It’s Too Easy Being Green: Defining Fair Green Marketing Practices.”

In the opening statement of Bobby Rush, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce he said:

“The hearing aims to explore consumer perception, truthfulness of claims and the role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and private certifiers and labeling programs in regulating and verifying advertising.”

The proceedings dealt with basic definitions and roles in setting rules and regulations. Concepts were qualified and questions were asked amongst lawmakers. In the end, key factors that will deter greenwashing of products and services were identified. These are:

• Better public disclosure on critical impacts
• Full ingredients lists
• Consistency and transparency
• Verifiable and readily available information.

FTC has further strengthened their efforts by filing complaints against Kmart Corp., Tender Corp., and Dyna-E International over allegedly deceptive claims of their product’s biodegradable nature.

The strict standards that FTC and other green government institution aim to establish will be crucial in the implementation of green programs now and in the future. Whether the lawmakers will take a strong stand on greenwashing or become lax in green regulations will determine the success or failure of green efforts. A lot of organizations and individuals are setting remarkable standards in greening the environment which create a lot of buzz not only in the Internet but in the entertainment industry as well.

Only the lawmakers have the power to ensure success in the promotion of green products. Others can only go as far as putting pressure on them and other decision makers within the government. The need for green organizations to highlight destructive impact of pollution in the environment and at the same time beneficial results of green practices should never cease in order to achieve short term and long term green goals.


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