Recognizing the Nine Types of Greenwashing

Recognizing the Nine Types of Greenwashing

Lauren Zerbey
Jul 5, 2011

Over the last several years new, we've been encouraged by the emergence of more responsible companies and the restructuring of older companies to reduce their impact on the environment. Unfortunately, along with the good there are also plenty of companies that falsely market their products as green. Learning how to distinguish the green from the greenwash isn't always easy, but these nine points are a good place to start!

Tristan Roberts from tackled the subject (mostly as it applies to building materials) and identified these nine tactics that companies use:

1. Green By Association: When a company associates itself with environmental terms and images even if its products have no environmental benefits, with the intent that consumers associate them with positive environmental attributes.

2. Lack of Definition: When a product makes an environmental claim that sounds good to the consumer but is too vague or general.

3. Unproven Claims: When a company makes environmental claims, but cannot or will not provide evidence to back them up.

4. The Non Sequitur: When a company uses a valid claim about a product as the basis for a further claim that is not warranted, but may on its surface appear to be reasonable (in other words, confusing the consumer).

5. Forgetting the Lifecycle: When a company chooses one easily understood aspect of a product's environmental profile to improve and highlight, while ignoring other significant impacts — sometimes out of ignorance; sometimes as an intentional effort to divert attention.

6. Bait and Switch: When a company heavily promotes the environmental attributes of a single product, while selling and manufacturing a bulk of otherwise similar products that lack the same environmental attributes.

7. Rallying Behind a Lower Standard: When a product earns an apparently valid, third-party certification — but the product's manufacturer or trade association had influenced the development of the relevant standard in a way that makes the certification less meaningful than it appears.

8. Reluctant Enthusiast: When a company lobbies against new environmental measures, claiming that they will be too costly. Particularly if it's losing the battle however, it hedges its bets, publicly embracing similar measures — while continuing to resist them behind the scenes.

9. Outright Lying: When, either intentionally or inadvertently, a company bends the truth, or simply ignores it.

Read More: Check out the full article at

(Image: TerraChoice)

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