Monday, 31 December 2007

Six Sins of Greenwashing

According to TerraChoice approximately 30% of professional purchasers are subject to green procurement policies (EcoMarkets 2005). This means that it is critically important for approximately one third of us to research and buy products and services for work based on how kind they are to the earth. Yet those of us who do this are often vexed by companies claiming to be green who we inevitably find out are not earth-friendly in practice.

This practice is commonly referred to as green-washing. Destinations promoting themselves as green who are not practicing sustainability are at risk of being exposed by professional planners on the watch for those who manage sustainably what they market as green: namely the cities they represent.

Those destinations interested in avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing are encouraged to be mindful of what TerraChoice calls the Six Sins of Greenwashing:
  1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-off. That is fabulous you can provide organic produce but I would really prefer something local that does not need to be shipped 3000 km from farm to plate, thank you very much.
  2. The Sin of No-Proof. So....exactly what environmentally responsible cleaners do you use anyways? Can I see them?
  3. The Sin of Vagueness. I appreciate that you provide a zero-waste conference, but what does that really mean?
  4. The Sin of Irrelevance. Huh. That is a new one - I've never heard of a water conserving light bulb before.
  5. The Sin of Fibbing. But I thought you said you were a Green Seal certified hotel?
  6. The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils. That is great you planned a carbon neutral conference, but did you actually reduce any emissions?

TerraChoice's report highlights examples of the treacherous ethical ground often navigated by environmental managers when marketing a green product or service. Important to keep in mind in the process of marketing and managing a green destination are the following questions:
  • Are we being truthful in what we are promoting to our market?
  • Is complete and accurate information available to the meeting planner?
  • Is the green attribute we are promoting relevant environmentally, and to the buyer?
  • When highlighting one environmental asset are we mindful of our environmental shortcomings?
What is key is transparency and verification at all times to ensure the client is purchasing what is promised, and does not encounter any unexpected surprises once contracts have been signed.

To view TerraChoice's complete report on Greenwashing please visit their web site.

No comments: