June 18th, 2010

As an intern for a start-up “green” company, I have a front row seat to the process of marketing and establishing a new company. More important, however, has been the opportunity to see the struggle of a company grounded by ethics rather than profit. Sustainable Living Group, Inc. was founded with a simple mission: reduce the consumption of plastic, the number one waste product filling our landfills and spilling into our oceans. Founders Quyen Huynh and Lynn Ching believe that through our biodegradable, BPA-free, PLA-free, and latex-free products and sustainable products made from recycled PET plastic, we can work to push the green lifestyle to the mainstream. You can understand then why we, a green company driven by our own environmental ethic, find it so frustrating to see companies touting their so-called “green” initiatives in order to increase sales.

Going “green” is now being used as a marketing campaign by which certain companies accentuate and flaunt minor eco-friendly attributes in order to draw in customers. This marketing scheme has been coined “greenwashing” by environmental activists. According to the Dictionary of Sustainable Management, greenwashing is “a term merging the concepts of “green” (environmentally sound) and “whitewashing” (to conceal or gloss over wrongdoing). In some cases, an organization may truly offer a “green” product, service or practice. However, through marketing and public relations, one is wrongly led to believe this “green” value system is ubiquitous throughout the entire organization.”

An example of greenwashing is Arm & Hammer. Arm & Hammer promoted the eco-friendly aspects of their company, but failed to align the rest of their company with their green campaign, namely, their use of animal testing. Environmentalists were quick to point out their greenwashing and encouraged consumers to turn to a cruelty-free and green Bob’s Red Mill baking soda. Don’t get us wrong, any step towards environmental preservation is both helpful and admirable; however, when overemphasized for the purpose of financial gain and at the expense of companies that are truly committed to the environment, it becomes an issue.

So how do you become a green-wise customer? Be informed! Find out how green a company really is. Advertising is biased, so find out for yourself through the internet how green a company really is. Learn more about greenwashing here.

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