News24

'Greenwashing' a reality in SA

2011-08-12 22:26

Johannesburg - Many product manufacturers are guilty of "greenwashing" with their false claims of "green", "eco-friendly" or "organic," misleading consumers into believing they are purchasing green products, when in fact they are buying into marketing claims.

This is according to Rory Murray, marketing director of Tuffy Brands, who says that the direct dictionary definition of the word "greenwash" is "the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service".

Murray says that according to TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, in 2009, 98% of all "green'" claims made by companies and brands were guilty of one or more of the "seven sins of greenwashing" which include "hidden trade-offs, no proof, vagueness, false labels, irrelevance, lesser of two evils, and fibbing".

However, the concept of "greenwashing" is not new as consumers have been misled about the environmental benefits of products and services for years.

Movement to make money

"Green is no longer just a colour but has become a movement to make money," Murray states.

"Although we don't have similar concrete figures in SA, we know that greenwashing is a reality in SA and the majority of companies are guilty of deceptive claims."

Murray explains that there is no regulation in SA to combat these claims.

"We firmly believe that a regulatory body is needed to monitor and combat claims as currently the only association taking strides to assist with this is the Advertising Standards Authority and even then the resultant impact is not entirely useful."

Murray adds that something needs to be done to police "greenwashing" in SA.

"Government needs to get on top of standardising and certification processes, business chambers need to set higher standards and the advertising industry should police its members."

Fraud

He alleges that some of SA's brands are entirely guilty of "greenwashing" with their use of vague claims such as "organic" when their products may contain highly suspicious and harmful chemicals.

Other false claims include: "environmentally friendly" and even "eco-safe".

"Consumers should demand the truth and the whole truth, as false claims amount to fraud."

Murray points out that the most common claim in SA sits right within the "vagueness sin" and this is the Mobius loop, the universal recycling symbol that is intended to mean that the product is made from recycled material. This symbol is in the public domain, and is not a trademark. As such, any one may use or modify the recycling symbol, royalty free.

He explains: "this is the nifty little recycling symbol found on almost all packaging but does not have a qualifying statement which makes it completely misleading to the consumer. Does it mean the whole product, or that packaging or both are recycled and are they 100% recycled material or less and is it post-consumer waste or pre-consumer waste? There is a big difference."

Caution

He adds that consumers need to be cautious when purchasing products that have these symbols on them.

"Check the content and how it was recycled - only when a product is recycled from a high content of post-consumer waste does it have any claim to be green as it actually has an impact on the environment."

Murray says that unfortunately there is no label that exists for this type of information and it seems that it is the consumer's responsibility to check the wording on products carefully and make an educated decision themselves based on limited information.

"The only way to tell if a product has a genuine green claim is to audit the entire supply line and not just the end product.

Ignorance, sloppiness

"In terms of recycled content it is important to analyse the raw material input to see what environmental impact the product actually has and ultimately what they are able to claim."

Murray adds that Tuffy Brands recently commissioned an independent audit by SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company "to legitimise that we mean what we say that our products are 100% recycled".

He insists that Tuffy Brands is the only South African refuse bag manufacturer to be fully certified 100% recycled "and we are hoping that this will be used to set an industry standard and other South African companies will follow suit".

However, most "greenwashing" is due to ignorance or sloppiness, he adds, rather than malicious intent, and businesses and advertising agencies can take simple steps to prevent "greenwashing" slipping through.

"As a consumer, you too can spot the worst 'greenwashing' symptoms and make up your own mind."

Comments
  • OZNOB - 2011-08-12 22:54

    THEY DID NOT LIE THEY SIMPLY FAILED TO TELL THE TRUTH OR IS IT A CASE OF THIS BEING TRUE ONLY THE FACTS HAVE BEEN CHANGED

  • william.botha - 2011-08-12 23:03

    Would love to see a "real" green product. Who's kidding who?

      OnlyaGinger - 2011-08-13 10:54

      dont put the independent sustainable businesses in the same group as the corporates trying to cash in on greenwashing. If you did your research you would see there are many manufacturers using, organic, fair trade and recycled materials in production- whether it be skin care, clothes or furniture. the key is to boycott ALL multinational corps, franchises with their multimillion dollar ad campaigns promoting a 'greener and fairer world'. these guys are the guilty ones, not the small guy making shampoo without carcinogenic phatalates, parabens and sulphates. Or the carpenter using only reclaimed materials for his furniture. If you buy green products from reputable decent companies you really can make a difference- dont be too cynical either! Most recent scam I saw is 'tresemme' that has a naturals shampoo out- reading the ingrient list, there is exactly ONE organic and natural ingredient, organic essential oil- the rest being petroleum derived floor degreaser and some synthetic perfume- F*** you tresemme. if you dont do your own research into the products you consume- dont be surprised if you are taken for a ride, organic claims or not.

      william.botha - 2011-08-13 20:53

      Yeow Ginger, you know me :). The problem is there is no "green" product. The key to the future lies in so many diverse areas, it becomes almost impossible for humans to deal with it. The car you drive, the paint on your walls, the plastic in your cellphone. It is about balance, and the main area of focus should be in stopping deforestation. Nature can deal with the waste from us humans, if we allow it. But the most critical filter is being cut down as we speak. Global CO2 levels have risen linearly along the rate of deforestation. Madagascar have less than 10% forests left, and this is going for Borneo as well as many others. Corporates through IT have succeeded in taking control of the brains of consumers. They are living in a fools paradise, and to them the new mechanism to jump start the failing ponzi global economy is the new term "green". You can only truly go green if you chuck civilization and don skins and live in caves and mud huts.

      OnlyaGinger - 2011-08-14 12:30

      @william Your post is spot on, but i maintain that as consumers, which we are first and foremost, there are many green alternatives to conventioonal products on the market. Lets take the petroleum industry vs hemp. Hemp can replace virtually every use for petroleum, you can make clothing, paints and varnishes, skin care, food, biofuels, building materials, paper all from hemp which is easily processed and produced, planting hemp instead drilling holes and polluting our watersupplieqs with fossil fuels is 100% more sustainable and green than tge petrol industry. So for me as a consumere i decide to go extra lengths to only use and consume items that are renewable and sustainably produced, whether it be my mouthwash, wall paints or food. The only exception where i am yet to find a sustainable alternative is technology, yes i am using a computer as i type, and yes i own a cellphone, i did not claim mkdern life can be entirely green, but my initial point was that we must make a distinction between companies trying to cash in on eco-guilt etc and pwople who are sincerely trying to make a difference by producing, harvesting or consuming morf sustainable products. Judging by the comments here, many a cynical of the green industry, but probably havent explored all avenues of it, atleast go for e lesser of two evils, but to criticise the industry without making changes to your own lifestyle is also not right

  • wehan.victor - 2011-08-13 00:01

    SURPRISE SURPRISE!

  • zaatheist - 2011-08-13 04:26

    All this organic nonsense is just a scam to charge higher prices for the same old "dirty" products. Anyone for a "Free Range" egg?

  • Nesomaniac - 2011-08-13 06:52

    It's all a money-making scam. The two catch words 'green' and 'organic', used so often by marketing con-artists, give me the screaming hab-dabs - I pay no attention to either.

  • Dead Skunk - 2011-08-13 07:28

    I don't buy Green and I don't buy Organic...

      william.botha - 2011-08-13 08:03

      I have to admit, I buy green, very seldom though, until it's legal..

  • Freelance Writer - 2011-08-13 08:42

    such a pretty little PR fluff piece pretending it's hard news. Does News24 have any real journalists.

  • Lynne - 2011-08-13 10:25

    People are so dumbass sometimes. This article proves it. Why can't humans use their brains and question everything? Or is it just me who was raised like that?

      Justfred - 2011-08-13 10:58

      Lynne, I could not agree with you more! We fall horribly short on the ability to ask "WHY".

  • OnlyaGinger - 2011-08-13 11:00

    dont put the independent sustainable businesses in the same group as the corporates trying to cash in on greenwashing. If you did your research you would see there are many manufacturers using, organic, fair trade and recycled materials in production- whether it be skin care, clothes or furniture. the key is to boycott ALL multinational corps, franchises with their multimillion dollar ad campaigns promoting a 'greener and fairer world'. these guys are the guilty ones, not the small guy making shampoo without carcinogenic phatalates, parabens and sulphates. Or the carpenter using only reclaimed materials for his furniture. If you buy green products from reputable decent companies you really can make a difference- dont be too cynical either! Most recent scam I saw is 'tresemme' that has a naturals shampoo out- reading the ingrient list, there is exactly ONE organic and natural ingredient, organic essential oil- the rest being petroleum derived floor degreaser and some synthetic perfume- F*** you tresemme. if you dont do your own research into the products you consume- dont be surprised if you are taken for a ride, organic claims or not.

  • patrick.heske - 2011-08-13 11:54

    Blah... I've just wasted 30 seconds of my life on this, go Tuffy PR. The last 2 para's are gems reserved for those on the grand stand in PR Hell. The thing about News24 is... if news breaks, you can read it here 2 days later.

  • sabc10 - 2011-08-13 12:50

    Headline should read :" FAKE ORGANIC FOOD " instead of whitewashing it as "GREENWASHING"

  • Colin - 2011-08-13 18:50

    name them and shame them

  • letsee - 2011-08-14 16:32

    GET LOST man... There is no standard definition of GREEN.

  • melt.olckers - 2011-08-15 08:22

    These advertising execs must be flogged.

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