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Definition

greenwashing

Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.

Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. It can also be used to differentiate a company's products or services from its competitors by promising more efficient use of power or by being more cost-effective over time.

As the green computing movement has grown, some technology vendors and hardware manufacturers have engaged in greenwashing, changing their packaging, advertising or branding to focus consumer's attention on green manufacturing, recycling or energy-saving benefits. The increased transparency and scrutiny many corporations have been exposed to by nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups and collaborative citizen journalism in the blogosphere all have helped to reveal which environmental claims are accurate and which are not.

Consumers researching their buying decisions can consult the National Advertising Division (NAD) of Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), which administers a system of voluntary self-regulation for the advertising industry. Online, site likes coopamerica.org, treehugger.com, corpwatch.org, greenbiz.com and others provide additional assistance. As blogged by Marketing Green, social bookmarking Web sites like DotheRightThing.org are allowing consumers to read news articles and rate the actions of the companies involved, based upon the perceived positive or negative environmental impact.
 

This was last updated in September 2007

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