More than 95 per cent of consumer products claiming to be green are committing at least one of the “sins” of greenwashing, according to The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition, released yesterday by TerraChoice, a leading North American environmental marketing company and part of Underwriters Laboratories’ global network.
The study also finds big box retailers stock more “green” products and more products that provide legitimate environmental certifications than smaller “green” boutique-style stores.
Greenwashing is defined as the act of misleading consumers about the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
The 2010 study reveals that greenwashing has declined slightly since 2009, with 4.5 per cent of products now “sin-free”, compared to only 2 per cent in 2009. The proportion of “sin- free” products is five times greater in “mature” categories like building, construction and office products than in “immature” categories like toys and baby products.
“We found 73 per cent more ‘green’ products on the market today than in 2009,” said Scott McDougall, President, TerraChoice. “This is great news and it shows that consumers are changing the world by demanding greener goods, and that marketers and manufacturers are taking note.”
The TerraChoice study, the third since 2007, surveyed 5,296 products in the U.S. and Canada that make an environmental claim. “The increase from just 2 per cent to 4.5 per cent may seem small, but we see it as early evidence of a positive and long lasting trend,” said McDougall. “We are also pleased with the finding that those home and family product categories that are more mature have less greenwashing and more reliable green certification.”
Product categories studied in the 2010 report include baby care products, toys, office products, building and construction products, cleaning products, housewares, health and beauty products, and consumer electronics. Additional highlights from The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition:
100 hundred per cent of toys and 99.2 per cent of baby products surveyed are guilty of some form of greenwashing.
BPA-free claims are up by 577 per cent since the 2009 Sins of Greenwashing study, appearing more frequently among toys and baby products than any other category studied.
Phthalate-free claims increased 2,550 per cent since 2009.
Good eco-labeling helps prevent (but does not eliminate) greenwashing
of the products certified by a recognized third-party certification, more than 30 per cent are sin-free.