The Lesser of Two Evils

Following the lecture on greenwashing I was unsure of one of the listed sins. The lesser of two evils seemed to be a bit too subjective to be used to judge companies communication. With this in mind I checked the Terra Choice website to see if they gave greater clarification on what exactly they defined this “sin” to be, and it was as follows:

 

“committed by claims that may be true within the product category, but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Organic cigarettes might be an example of this category, as might be fuel efficient sport-utility vehicles.”

 

After looking at some of their examples I still think including it in their report is problematic. Personally I feel like it fails to address the problem of misleading the customer in the way that the others do. If the Hummer add says that the vehicle is eco-friendly, sure that’s a lie and should be seen as one. But for it to list it’s fuel economy and say that this model consumes less, is hardly lying to the consumers. I would tend to agree that SUVs are not green regardless of the fuel consumption however this hardly constitutes as greenwashing from my understanding. Also, labeling Hummer as Greenwashing becomes irrelevant if you look at the fact that it is unlikely that they were targeting the “eco-consumer” so Terra Choice and their followers will have little ability to change either their marketing communications or their overall sustainability. A Greenwashing label really only holds value to those companies that want to be green or at least want eco-consumers to buy their products.

 

I think Terra Choice has too much freedom to apply their own biases and ideals when it comes to this sin. Even though I would tend to agree with them and believe their opinion should be voiced. I think that this report is not the right place. From my reading the report is presented as a factually based report that tries to point out deliberately misleading or false advertising. From my opinion there was nothing misleading about Hummer’s ad in terms of them communicating that they are eco-conscious or anything like that. I think the best strategy to address these categories of products that are on the whole bad would be in a separate report. To address in a more holistic manner the failings of this product category and give consumers advice on other options would be more meaningful.

 

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1 comment
  1. You know, I had the same impression the first time I read Terra Choice’s report on the sins of sustainability. Good point. I think it’s important to keep in mind that Terra Choice is a company (now part of a larger company, UL, in fact) and has motives/ways of operating that reflect that, to some degree at least.

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