BY GREG McMILLAN
NEVER BEFORE has there been such a proliferation of so-called green products flooding the marketplace.
We are bombarded each and every day by companies touting their wares – from outright branding to more subtle green colour-coordinated marketing techniques.
Contrary to predominant popular opinion, there are ways the find out.
Until legitimate certifications become more well-known, however, unfortunately it will be up to the consumer to do a little digging before making a purchase or deciding to do business with a company.
But at least there are some ways to protect yourself, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
One of the places you can start is by looking at an organization such as TerraChoice, which bills itself as a global leader in third-party environmental certification.
In a recent study conducted by TerraChoice, called the Sins of Greenwashing, they looked at eco-labelling and offered solutions. (Greenwashing, by the way, is a term used to describe the deceptive use of green marketing to promote a misleading perception that a company’s products or policies are environmentally-friendly.)
A key bit of information they provided noted that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the place to check in with if you want the straight goods on a product or service.
What they also found in their study was that false labels in the marketplace are a dime a dozen.
“There are so many completely meaningless eco-labels that it’s become almost comical,” the study showed. “And by searching for ‘certified green’ at many stock image websites, we were offered meaningless false eco-labels downloadable for only a few dollars.”
Close to home, there are public media services such as Marketplace, CBC Television’s investigative consumer show, which continually tries to provide helpful tips, also available online.
A recent example of their efforts was entitled Peeling back misleading green labels: Why government needs to police those ‘green’ claims. According to the program’s findings, it’s good business for companies to overstate their green virtues, pointing out that two thirds of Canadians buy natural products – paying more for items they think are healthier and more environmentally responsible.
And they asked the question: Are we really getting what we pay for?
Not according to TerraChoice, which determined that not only have the “number of products making green claims increased by almost 75 per cent since 2009, but 95 per cent were guilty of greenwashing, either by making claims that were vague, irrelevant, unproven or just patently false.”