Greenwashing Index Creates Accountability for Green Marketers

Green is the latest "in" color for marketers, joining red (anti-AIDS) and pink (breast cancer) in the marketing strategy kaleidoscope. Concerns about protecting the environment have led consumers and advocacy groups to place greater expectations about how businesses interact with the environment in the manufacture and distribution of their wares. Many companies have hitched a ride on the green marketing wagon in an attempt to demonstate their socially responsible actions... and as a strategy to differentiate themselves from competitors.

What should consumers make of marketers' green claims? How do we assess the credibility of claims? An effort has been launched to help in this regard, EnviroMedia's "Greenwashing Index." The term "greenwashing" has been coined to describe companies whose words about being green speak louder than their actions. Specifically, the Greenwashing Index rates ads that make green claims on a 5-point scale, with 1 being a "good ad" and 5 being "total greenwashing."

Efforts like the Greenwashing Index provide two benefits. First, interested persons have a resource for evaluating green marketing claims. While many companies can make claims about being green, not all companies have put the same level of effort into protecting the environment. The Greenwashing Index can assess the different levels of focus marketers put on environmental protection. Second, the presence of a watchdog like the Greenwashing Index should make advertisers be careful about the green claims they make. Ads that receive high Greenwashing Index scores do not reflect the type of word-of-mouth marketers want for their brands.