Interested in linking to "Don't be Guilty of Greenwashing"?
You may use the Headline, Deck, Byline and URL of this article on your Web site. To link to this article, select and copy the HTML code below and paste it on your own Web site.
By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief | 09/05/2008
There’s a billboard on Interstate 294 outside Chicago on which a contracting company promotes its ability not just to finish your basement crawlspace but to make it “green.”
Greenpeace – not a popular source quote in business magazine – nevertheless makes the valid point: “The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives.”
“Greenwashing,” a combination of the words green and whitewashing, is moving into the popular vernacular. The term describes efforts, mostly by the business community, to create the illusion that a company is implementing practices meant to improve the environment when it is not really doing so.
Greenwashing also can describe genuinely beneficial efforts that either don’t offset a company’s other harmful practices or instances when significantly more money or time has been spent by the company to advertise that it’s green than it expends on being green.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing) says the term was coined in a 1986 essay by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, who was writing about the hotel industry's then-new practice of placing signs in each room to promote the reuse of guest-towels. Rather than saving the planet, the real motivation was to save money on laundering, Westerveld said. And he noted that, in most cases, the hotels made little or no effort toward waste recycling or other environmentally responsible things.
Greenpeace on its web site (http://www.greenpeace.org ) features three greenwashing campaigns, involving General Motors, coal and nuclear power. Not a word about the food industry.
However, we have a couple thousand words about the food industry and its green efforts in our cover story this month (http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2008/335.html). The very laudable efforts of Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola Enterprises, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, PepsiCo, Stonyfield Farm and Unilever are chronicled in these pages. Plus, Cargill, Danone, Dole, Nestle, Red Bull and Sara Lee are added to the version of the story on our web site (http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2008/335.html).
Some of the numbers are impressive: Kellogg is saving 7 million gallons of water in a Mexico plant; Coca-Cola aims for 100 percent recycling of its cans and PET bottles; the solar array at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay distribution center generates 350,000 kWh of electricity; Unilever has developed a software program to assess the green effects of product development changes; all 12 U.S. Anheuser-Busch breweries soon will be producing renewable fuels.
Stonyfield Farm really is a pioneer in this area, its efforts predating even the reuse-your-hotel-towel signs. Now, the yogurt company claims it’s carbon-neutral. An interesting little case history we came across was from General Mills. With just simple changes to the Hamburger Helper package – which included a “redesign” to more compact pasta – General Mills figures it will reduce the use of paper fiber by 890,000 lbs., trim greenhouse gas emissions by 11 percent and take 500 trucks off the road.
As a final note – and warning -- let me cite a December 2007 report from TerraChoice, an environmental marketing company. “The Six Sins of Greenwashing" (http://www.terrachoice.com/Home/Six%20Sins%20of%20Greenwashing/The%20Six%20Sins) found that 99 percent of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of some degree of greenwashing. It’s a little difficult to believe those numbers, but therein lies the dangerous side of greenwashing watchdogs: You can do 99 good things on the environmental front, but do just one bad thing and you’re labeled a fraud.
Nevertheless, and with liberal grains of salt, TerraChoice’s “six sins of greenwashing” are worth a look:
Tell us about your company's "green" efforts. Either drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or type a message in the box below. We will acknowledge those efforts in our magazine pages or on our web site.
FoodProcessing.com is the go-to information source for the food and beverage industry. We offer processing best practices as well as new products, equipment and ingredients for food and beverage processors.