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











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