Environmentally conscious consumers are no longer a fringe market. Savvy businesses recognize this commercial opportunity. Some try to capitalize on it by misleading buyers. Others are responding to the demand by creating products that truly are better for the planet.
|These are some examples of credible green certifications. While these logos are subject to copyright, their use in this educational article is covered by U.S. fair use laws because the article is about the entities that the logos represent, and they are low resolution images not suitable for production of counterfeit goods. They do not mean that this article is written or authorized by the logo owner.
Smart shoppers should try to sort through the hype. This will enable them to give their market share to companies that really are working to reduce their impact on the environment. TerraChoice, an environmental marketing firm, has the following recommendations to help you figure out what to look for.
LIFECYCLE PERSPECTIVE: When seeking environmentally preferable products, look at multiple considerations, instead of just one like recycled content. For example, does the company consider the environment during the entire lifecycle of the product, from raw materials to the manufacturing process through to ultimate disposal?
PROOF: Not all labels or brochures are going to include the detailed scientific basis of a green claim. However, they should tell you where to find the evidence to back up a claim.
SPECIFICS: Eco-, non-toxic, earth-friendly labels should be supported by an explanation of what they mean.
THIRD-PARTY CERTIFICATIONS: Legitimate certifications include EcoLogo, Green Seal, Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Green Guard, and Green Seal. Most are industry-independent, nonprofit organizations. All make lists of certified products available to the public. Some also provide fraud advisories.
Terrachoice also has recommendations for marketers, to help genuinely greener products excel, reduce competitive pressure from illegitimate claims, and avoid creating jaded consumers who are skeptical of all green claims.
ADVICE FOR MARKETERS: Keep science, honesty and transparency paramount.
- The first step is understanding the environmental impacts of products throughout the lifecycle.
- Then work to reduce your environmental footprint.
- Encourage purchasers to join you on your journey.
- Help buyers find products that are right for them, by assisting them in reducing their own impact when using or disposing of your product.
- Provide specifics, and avoid vague and meaningless lingo.
- Pursue product certification to demonstrate the legitimacy of your environmental claims.
- Offer the evidence to anyone who asks.
- And last, but not least, always tell the truth.
There probably is no perfectly green product; however some are more green than others. TerraChoice notes that rewarding environmental leadership in the marketplace (with market share, price premiums, public respect and increased visibility) motivates environmental progress and sustainability. That scenario is a win:win:win that benefits buyers, businesses and the planet.