Greenwashing in the Building Materials Industry

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the act of conveying false or misleading information in an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for environmentally friendly products. Although greenwashing may not always be intentional, it involves making an unsubstantiated claim, deceiving consumers into believing that a company’s products are more environmentally sound than they actually are. In addition to the use of unsubstantiated claims, greenwashing can come in the form of environmental imagery, and use of misleading labels to convey the idea that the product or company is more green than its competitors.

TerraChoice Environmental Marketing has identified the six sins of greenwashing as the following:

  • Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
  • Sin of No Proof
  • Sin of Vagueness
  • Sin of Irrelevance
  • Sin of Fibbing
  • Sin of Lesser of Two Evils

When testing “green” products, it was found by TerraChoice that many were guilty of at least one of the above.

What are the Implications?

The growing frequency of greenwashing is leading to consumer cynicism towards green products. The vast number of false claims of sustainability have left many people feeling overwhelmed and confused to the point where they may disregard a product’s claims of sustainability.

Furthermore, when consumers do attempt to buy ecofriendly products, they are often entrapped with greenwashing. These consumers are therefore unintentionally supporting companies which do more harm to the environment than good. One example of this is a consumer purchases a product advertised as recyclable. It may be true that the end product can be put in the recycle bin, but the company’s manufacturing process leads to water pollution.

How to Discern the Green from the Murky

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides the following guidelines to help in identifying green products from the greenwashed products:

  • Packaging and advertising should explain the product’s green claims in plain language and readable type in close proximity to the claim.
  • An environmental marketing claim should specify whether it refers to the product, the packaging, or just a portion of the product or package.
  • A product’s marketing claim should not overstate, directly or by implication, an environmental attribute or benefit.
  • If a product claims a benefit compared with the competition, then the claim should be substantiated.

As a consumer, you may want to verify the claims a company is making. The simplest means is to look to third-party certifications or research. In the building materials industry, some of the most prominent third-party certifications for sustainable forest management include PEFC and SFI.
Here at Nakamoto Forestry, we strive to be transparent and to make your life simpler. This is why we use third-party research and certifications to show the environmental impacts of our products. We certify through PEFC as sustainable managers of our forests, we have environmental declaration and carbon footprint reports on all of our products, all handled through third-party systems. Our reports and certifications can be found on our website. We also will have our newly acquired SFI certification added to our website very soon!

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