This morning, Tom Closser (owner of Aloha Bay) sent this out and we thought it well worth reading if you care about environmental sustainability. It opened our eyes and we hope it opens yours. Utopia is proud to carry Aloha Bay products. Check them out when you get a chance.
WILL GREENWASHING EVER SUBSIDE?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
All of us are getting bombarded with thousands of messages every day that are doctored and spun by media experts. Greenwashing, like “whitewash” and “green sheen”, are all forms of marketing spin in which positive language or claims are deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims and/or policies are environmentally friendly. Evidence that an organization is greenwashing often comes from pointing out the spending differences: significantly more money or time is spent advertising being “green” (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices.
Greenwashing efforts range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals to multimillion dollar advertising campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly. The rise of green and sustainable business practices has sent a ripple, maybe even a storm, heck more like a tsunami through the natural food industry. While many organizations have made an earnest attempt to become greener, it’s also no surprise that many others have attempted to use marketing to disguise feeble efforts and mislead consumers about what they’re actually doing.
While greenwashing is not new, its use has increased over recent years to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly goods and services. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides voluntary guidelines for environmental marketing claims. However, the green guidelines were not created to be used as an enforceable guideline but instead were intended to be followed voluntarily. The problem is compounded for especially in the lifestyle category there are no guidelines. Manufacturers can still claim their candles are “all natural” or “100% vegan” when they contain hexane derived soy wax. In an effort to appear to use pure essential oils, manufacturers claim “signature perfume blends with essential and natural oils” when the fragrance is actually 99% synthetic. Candlemakers are not required to list all the petrochemical additives used in candle making or in their proprietary fragrances. Terms such as “Soy Candles” or “Beeswax” can be on a product label when in fact the contents are a blend of paraffin and other waxes.
Examples of Greenwashing
Throughout the year in Aloha Bay’s monthly newsletters, we will address these myths and more:
- One type of wax burns longer, better, cleaner, and is drip less.
- Beeswax candles are the purest. (They are full of pesticide residue.)
- Only beeswax gives off healthful negative ions and cleans your air.
- Commercially farmed, pesticide and heavy equipment intensive, annual soy crops are sustainable, eco-friendly, renewable, and carbon neutral.
- Candles are soot free.
- Pure essentials oils and synthetic fragrances are the same.
- Any soy wax is non-GMO.
- Beeswax and soy wax are healthier alternatives.
- Palm plantations and not soy farms are destroying rainforests.
- Palm production is killing off orangutans and other wildlife.
However, It’s Becoming Tougher to Hoodwink the Public.
Even if the rise of greenwashing, paired with ineffective regulation, contributes to our skepticism of all green claims, and perhaps diminishes consumer’s confidence in our power to motivate companies toward greener solutions for manufacturing processes and business operations, don’t give up.
A number of organizations, including Organic Consumers Association, TerraChoice Group, Green Peace, Cornucopia and CorpWatch have begun calling out companies for perceived exaggerations or outright fabrications. Thankfully, the press is increasingly picking up on these stories.
Check out: Greenwashing Index attempts to keep advertisers honest; California’s right to know grocershighlights natural food stores that are organic and cites non-GMO advocates trying to make a difference; andUNFI’s Honest Green news is useful, because it rates fifteen-thousand products by what sells the best.
The Truth is Out There.
Truth in marketing is essential for sustainable commerce. However, because there are no US requirements for fragranced health and beauty products to source sustainably, the industry is notorious for false marketing claims and egregious greenwashing. You just have to ask enough questions. Honest manufactures always appreciate your questions about any global issues, so don’t hesitate to query the owner, president, or CEO. Your intelligent questions and sustainable choices will ultimately determine the health of your friends, family and our planet.
Here are a few tips on what to look for so you don’t get greenwashed (or if you’re a company, avoid involvement in greenwashing):
The Truth: If you see a green advertisement, take a look at the company as a whole. Can you easily find more information about their sustainable business practices on their website? Do they have a comprehensive environmental story? Is there believable information to substantiate the green claims you saw in the ad? If not, buyer beware.
The Whole Truth: Next, try this: Google the company name plus the word “environment” and see what pops up. This is far from scientific, but if consumers or environmental advocates have a beef with the company’s track record, something is bound to pop up.
And Nothing But the Truth: “I know it when I see it.” Those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in a ruling on hard-core pornography in 1964. If you spot a green advert, how does it strike your gut? Does it ring true and authentic, or is it obviously hype? Smart shoppers abound globally, and your own scrutiny of green marketing claims is one more item to throw into your shopping cart.
You Have the Power to Change the World
As you and other consumers become more savvy and the downside for greenwashing becomes more apparent, smart companies will increasingly discover that it’s better to approach environmental issues honestly and make genuine efforts to improve rather than to try to fool us folks. What you spend your hard-earned money on determines what manufacturers produce and from whom they source their raw materials.
Who Are Your Purchases Supporting?
If you demand to know who and where the raw materials come from that a manufacturer uses in their products, you can decide whether you want to support global greed driven agro-conglomerates such as Monsanto or fair trade, organic, and Rainforest Alliance certified growers. Aloha Bay is the only candlemaker in the world that is certified Rainforest Alliance and EcoCert, sources certified organic USDA palm oil, and is verified non-GMO.
Aloha Bay’s New Year’s Resolution: Be Totally Transparent.
The soul of any brand exists in those core values that they hold to even under the most stressful situations, independent of the business environment, competitive pressures, or consumer fads. These values are so inherent in the most sustainable companies that if they disappeared, the company would cease to exist. The best situation is when the manufacturer makes the most sustainable choices about sourcing raw materials based on contacts with folks who actually live in those countries. Sourcing sustainable palm is an ongoing process, because even better organic, fair trade and Rainforest Alliance certified sources are becoming available. Transparency about what is in our products is the key to Aloha Bay’s corporate conscience. We make every effort to source organic, fair trade and sustainable raw materials and are conscientious of the implications of our international purchases.