Conservation news

Consumers fail at identifying green companies

An article today in New Scientist shows that American consumers have a difficult time correctly identifying green companies, often confusing ‘greenwashing’ for true green credentials or not bestowing enough credit where credit is truly due. By combining data from Earthsense, which polled 30,000 Americans about on their views of ‘green’ companies, and Trucost which assesses companies global environmental impact, New Scientist was able to discover just how confused American consumers are when it comes to identifying ‘green’.

In total, the article found no correlation between American consumers’ sense of a company’s greenness and the companies’ actual green credentials according to Trucost, which looks at 700 different environmental impacts.

In some cases there was a dramatic difference between American consumer beliefs and a company’s actual efforts.

While media firm Discovery Communications has just as much environmental impact as another big media firm, Viacom, consumers thought Discovery far more green. The article points out that entertainment content may be more important than actual efforts, since Discovery is known for nature shows.

Whole Foods received the highest praise from American consumers, yet analysis by Trucost shows that the big market food chain has just as much environmental impact as other grocery chains, in part due to Whole Foods unwillingness to disclose certain information: clear evidence of a companies ability to buy green credentials through marketing. On the other end of the spectrum, Coca-Cola, according to Trucost, has become relatively green due to efforts to reduce water use, yet American consumers don’t recognize its efforts.

One of the most interesting discoveries was how little Americans understand about the environmental impacts of the food industry. While the food and beverage industry has a far larger impact on the environment than other consumer companies, Americans did not make that connection assigning food and beverage companies similar scores as other sectors. For example, Fresh Del Monte Produce has a poor showing according to Trucost due largely to water issues and the use of chemicals and fertilizer, yet consumers generally see the produce giant as ‘green’. Like Whole Foods, Fresh Del Monte Produce has refused to disclose some data.

The analysis shows just how easy it is for some companies to claim green through clever, at times misleading, marketing, while other companies struggle to have their environmental efforts recognized. The article concludes that new initiatives to rate and distribute a companies’ environmental performance could aid consumers in having a better—and more accurate—awareness of which companies are truly green.

To see full article: New Scientist

Related articles

Blackwashing by NGOs, greenwashing by corporations, threatens environmental progress

(11/12/2009) Misinformation campaigns by both corporations and environmental groups threaten to undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity and reduce environmental degradation, argues a new paper published in the journal Biotropica. Growing concerns over climate change and unsustainable resource extraction have put companies that exploit the environment in the spotlight. Some firms have responded by taking measures to reduce their environmental impact. Others have alternatively engaged in sophisticated marketing campaigns intended to mislead consumers on their environmental performance, maintaining that environmentally-destructive practices are instead benign. At the same time some activist groups have been guilty of exaggerating claims of environmental misconduct in order to boost support for their campaigns and therefore their fundraising efforts.

Retailers Costco and flunk sustainable paper use, WalMart and Target fare little better

(08/27/2009) Every year forests are destroyed for the production of paper: habitat is lost, greenhouse gases are released, species are impacted, and fresh water sources damaged. Some companies have begun to move towards more sustainable paper production, seeking paper sources stamped by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and increasing the use of recycled paper, however other companies in the industry have yet to change their way.
The 3rd annual report card conducted by Dogwood Alliance and Forest Ethics focuses both on the companies who continue to make progress toward sustainable paper production—and those who don’t.

Coca-Cola announces water conservation goal

(10/30/2008) Coca-Cola Company has pledged to a 20 percent improvement in water efficiency over 2004 levels in its worldwide operations by 2012, saving some 50 billion liters of fresh water over projected use that year, reports WWF, which negotiated the agreement.