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Green Gone Wrong

Reeling in customers with false representation or misleading claims are techniques some companies use to market their products.

Trying to make labeling appear greener may fool some, but smart buyers are capable of being label aware.

Some organizations have attempted to uncover the tendency to use greenwashing to sell merchandise, and it may be surprising how prevalently used one study found it to be.

TerraChoice conducted an initial study in 2007 to uncover whether or not merchandise that was marketed as green was in fact an ecological choice, and that the products reviewed met their claims. What they found was that there were several evident factors which comprised misleading marketing practices.

They directed a 2009 follow-up study which revealed that greenwashing had a major presence in a large majority of retail items. They visited 34 different stores throughout Canada and the U.S. and examined more than 5,000 items finding that many manufacturers used an environmentally friendly focus, even though this may be a deceptive application on their part.

Nearly all products they looked at contained evidence of greenwashing techniques. 95% of the merchandise they investigated was found to have misleading advertising claims. One of the most occurring false assertions were ones in which items were said to be Energy Star compliant. Also, using terminology like all natural and faux eco labeling were among the infractions found.

Their 2010 report lists the findings. This study led to their list of 7 sins of greenwashing which summarizes commonly used illusive marketing strategies.

Consumers are smart and mostly do not need studies to tell them when they are being greenwashed. However, it is interesting to note the emergence of environmentally geared products into the mainstream from a marketing perspective, and at times a not so truthful one.

Though some criticisms of the study and of TerraChoice in general remind that TerraChoice Environmental Marketing is in fact a marketing based company which has a specific interest in green as a category. They also have consulting services available, so some skeptics deem this a bias which may affect their research as well as their intent.

TerraChoice may have their own interests in mind, though there are probably worse promotional practices than trying to make consumers and companies more aware of  unreliable labeling tactics.

Can you be greenwashed? Check your basic knowledge and play their game.

Many companies try to take advantage of the newest trend and use it to disperse their product and fill their wallets. However, ones with real consumer interest in mind listen to facts knowing that trends fade, and rely on their product’s capacity, not the ability of advertising and labeling to deceptively draw in the masses.

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