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The two minute version 10 signs of greenwash The temptation of greenwash A short history of greenwash The world wakes up to greenwash Greenwash: Annoying or dangerous? And the industry response is… Goodbye greenwash A virtuous or vicious cycle A greener future Learn more End notes
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The two minute version
Greenwash is with us, and unless we takeaction, it is likely to be with us to stay. Greenwash is an environmental claim which is unsubstantiated (a fib) or irrelevant (a distraction). Found in advertising, PR or on packaging, and made about people, organisations and products. Greenwash is an old concept, wrapped in a very modern incarnation.

And greenwash is growing. The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK is upholding more andmore complaints against advertising that can’t live up to its green bluster. Around the world regulators are trying to keep up, and the USA’s Federal Trade Commission has brought forward to 2008 its plan to review their environmental marketing guidelines. France has just announced new guidelines and the UK is reviewing the advertising Green Claims guidance. But is this enough?

business towardsgreater greenness. Greenwash is the spanner in the works that could sabotage the whole environmental movement within business. This guide reveals the industries most actively greenwashing, and those environmental claims most likely to be greenwash. Not enough is being done to prevent this accelerating negative feedback loop. None of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies claim to have training orguidelines for their staff on what is a justified green claim. And none of the main publications in the UK who sell advertising space have their own standard.

Why all the fuss?
Greenwash isn’t simply annoying, it’s dangerous. In a market economy the consumer is king, and consumers have started sending strong environmental signals through their purchasing. This growing ‘green pound’ is a powerfulforce compelling the economy to clean up its environmental act. But consumers often rely on advertising and other corporate messaging to inform their purchasing choices, and greenwash is undermining confidence in that advertising. That confidence is now at an all time low, with only 10% of consumers trusting green information from business and government1. Without confidence in the claims,consumers are reluctant to exercise the power of their green purchasing, as they no longer know who or what to believe. This puts the whole market for the ‘green pound’ in danger and might damage the virtuous circle of companies promoting their green products, consumers choosing them over non-green products thereby encouraging

It’s not all bad news
Most greenwash is due to ignorance and/ or sloppinessrather than malicious intent, and businesses and advertising agencies can take simple steps to prevent greenwash slipping through. As a consumer, you too can spot the worst greenwash symptoms, and this guide lists the simple tests for ‘greenwash’ versus ‘good claims’. Tear off and keep our simple Greenwash Guide postcard for when you’re shopping. At a time of impending economic challenges, it’smore vital than ever that green messages have credibility. The next few years will demonstrate if together companies, agencies and consumers can spin the virtuous circle, or if runaway greenwash will bring the new green revolution crashing down.


From the international codes and research for this report we have identified 10 signs of greenwash, be it in an advert or a speech by a governmentminister.

1. Fluffy language
Words or terms with no clear meaning, e.g. ‘eco-friendly’

6. Just not credible
‘Eco friendly’ cigarettes anyone? ‘Greening’ a dangerous product doesn’t make it safe

2. Green products v dirty company
Such as efficient light bulbs made in a factory which pollutes rivers

7. Gobbledygook
Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or...
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