Greenwashing Index takes aim at false claims
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Call it social media's response to greenwashing.
For nearly three years, the Greenwashing Index has dished the best and the worst of environmental advertising, offering a user-driven platform to call out misleading green ads and showcase honest ones.
Site users bash everything from the Fur Council of Canada's "Fur is Green" campaign to claims about clean coal. Garanti Bank's so-called environmentalist credit card scored a highest-possible five points on the website's bogus scale.
The Greenwashing Index also gives props for authenticity of ad claims by companies promoting intelligent consumer dialogue about environmental choices. Eco-Bags, Macbooks and IBM have all rated well for transparency.
Since its inception, more than one company has posted planned advertising and used the Greenwashing Index as a free focus group, eager to see how green-leaning consumers react.
The site was shaped partly in Oregon, through a partnership between the University of Oregon and EnviroMedia Social Marketing, an Austin-based marketing firm with an office in Portland.
"Going back three years ago, it was right at the time when the (U.S. Federal Trade Commission) decided during the Bush Administration that they needed to accelerate their review of the green marketing guides, and at the same time there was an explosion of environmental advertising that had taken place. Having been in this space for 13 years, we were frankly aghast at what we were seeing," said Kevin Tuerff, principal at EnviroMedia.
EnviroMedia invested more than $50,000 in legal expenses to develop a website that could hold greenwashers accountable, raise consumer awareness and inspire companies to do the right thing. The result was the user-driven model still online today. The University of Oregon developed the five educational criteria users apply to evaluate ads.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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