Greenwashers Beware: The Truth Will Come Out

07/30/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Should we trust all these green claims? Since the green movement has gained momentum, there has been a lot of talk about whether a company is greenwashing or whether carbon credits can be trusted.

paul mccartney lexusThe good news is we are paying attention: People really care about green as a criterion. More and more, how green a product is becomes part of what a buyer looks at alongside price, aesthetics, and functionality. Therefore, even if initial efforts are lackluster, they will get better as companies compete against each other on this criterion. The greener products will rise to the top.

A major watchdog is the Internet. Through blogs as well as commenting and rating systems, the discrepancies become public and are critiqued. Thankfully, with this kind of system and enough volume of communication/rating, it'll be hard in the medium to long term for the good guys not to win. The truth will out.

Take Kraft's Post Select (PDF) cereals, for example. The company received a lot of slack for promoting "natural ingredients," when they were actually using genetically engineered corn.

Companies also have to think about how they present their green products. Lexus, for example, recently earned a very public scolding. The car manufacturer gifted Paul McCartney a new hybrid -- but instead of delivering it by boat, they delivered it by plane, racking up a huge carbon footprint. This slip-up became headline news and is a hard lesson for the firm. Now, other car companies won't make the same mistake.

The key is to think things through, and do the research. Does it sound fishy? Does it use confusing terminology? Then, go with a reputable certification, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for wood or the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program for furnishings.

Have tips to avoid greenwashing? Companies that are big culprits? Comment below!