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Friday, February 11, 2011

Four Cases of Greenwashing

This slide shows four separate cases of Greenwashing in the US and UK and how approximately 60 students at George Washington University felt about each case.
The cases are BP for rebranding their image, Kmart for their biodegradable "American Fare" paper plates, Volkswagen for their low emissions claim, and Fiji for their carbon-negative claim.

The final slide shows our group recommendation for how to make the detection, researching, education and enforcement of Greenwashing more streamlined.

Greenwash Online Survey: Kmart

In 2009 Kmart marketed their "American Fare"plates as "biodegradable". Kmart did not lie. These paper plates do degrade within a year if allowed to compost.

Image as described above

However, the FTC claimed that 91% of solid waste is disposed of in landfills, incinerators and recycling facilities, where "biodegradable" paper plates don't decompose

A. Kmart's "biodegradable" claim was truthful
B. Kmart's "biodegradable" claim was misleading
C. Kmart should have included disclaimers
D. Both B & C
E. Kmart did nothing wrong because they were unsure of the rules

Greenwash Online Survey: Fiji / Volkswagen

Fiji Water claims to be "carbon negative." This means that they will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they produce.

Image as described above

Fiji will reduce emissions so that their bottled water will generate a negative 20 percent carbon emissions.

However, this 20 percent negative emissions will not be fully reached until 2037.

The year 2037 is not written on the bottle (though it may be available on their website)

Furthermore, Fiji releases about 65% more CO2 per bottle compared to the remainder of the industry because the bottles are made in China and the bottles have to be shipped from Fiji (Lots of fossil fuels expended)

  1. Fiji appears to be doing everything they can to be a green company
  2. Fiji's "carbon negative" claim is technically accurate.
  3. Fiji's "carbon negative" claim is misleading.
  4. Neither
  5. Can't Determine
  6.  Both 2 & 3
  7. Other (please specify)
Image as described above

The Ad claims that the Golf TSI had "low emissions for a car of its performance level" which is true. However, consumer activits claimed that the public would interpret the statement of "low emissions" to mean the car had low emissions compared to ALL cars on the road.

  1. The ad is misleading
  2. The statement was correct and thus the ad was not misleading
  3. Cannot tell
  4. Other

Greenwash Presentation at GWU

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greenwash Online Survey: BP

In 2000, BP rebranded its image from the old shield to the cheerful sunburst. The green was retained to show BP's commitment to nature. Meanwhile, the company began to get lax in safety inspections. In 2005, a BP refinery exploded, followed by a 4,800 barrel oil spill in 2006. Then in 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon resulted in the largest oil spill in the United States.

Image as described above

Greenwashing is when a company spends more time and money talking about being green than actually doing it. It doesn't mean that they are not becoming more Green. It does mean that they are not doing enough to meet the standards that you may perceive by looking at the ad. Is the new sunburst logo an example of Greenwash?

  1. Greenwash
  2. Smart Ad
  3. Can't Tell
  4. Other

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Greenwashing -- Navigating the Complicated Eco-babble

"So even if the plastic bags were to degrade within a year in an open-air environment, most Americans do not compost their plastics making the 'degradable' claim irrelevant."

Greenwashing is not a recent phenomenon.  For the last 20 plus years, the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service or company has surely existed.

But in the last few years, the use and abuse of green advertising has sharply escalated as companies strive to meet burgeoning consumer demand for products that will help save Mother Earth for our children's children.

Just make your weekly pilgrimage to Whole Foods and there are surely a whole slew of products that claim to be ozone-safe, eco-friendly, carbon-negative and made with renewable energy.

They all sound well and good and makes me feel extra eco-altrusitic (until I go home and slaughter a whole pig for dinner) But will they really make Mother Earth beam with pride?  Or perhaps more importantly what do these terms mean and do these products meet the industry standard set by the consumer-coddling Federal Trade Commission?