Sins of Greenwashing: 2010 Report Released

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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.

The study, released by TerraChoice, a leading North American environmental marketing company, defines greenwashing as an 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 study also finds that marketers and product manufacturers are getting better, with greenwashing down among those who have been focused on environmentally preferable practices longer than others. 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, TerraChoice’s president. “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 5296 products in the US and Canada that make an environmental claim. Between March and May 2010, TerraChoice visited 19 retail stores in Canada and 15 in the United States.

“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.

The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition highlights:

  • There are 73 per cent more green products on market today than in 2009.
  • More than 95 per cent of consumer products claiming to be green are guilty of at least one of the “sins” of greenwashing.
  • 4.5 per cent of products now sin-free, compared to only 1 per cent in 2007.
  • 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.
  • Big box stores are more likely to stock products that are “sin-free” than boutique stores.
  • Categories such as building materials, construction and office products contained more “sin-free” products than categories where “green” experience was less developed, such as baby products, toys, and consumer electronics.
  • 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.

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