Monday, July 13, 2009

Greenwashing Running Rampant

In the past, we have talked about greenwashing (you know, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way"). Today, As corporations are trying harder than ever to "look good" and we are seeing more suds than ever. So how can you avoid falling prey to greenwashing?

Here are a few tips:

-Be informed: The first step is to make sure you research your supply chain. What does it mean when your suppliers say they are green? Don’t be afraid to ask them about their specific practices.

-Understand what terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean. Natural does not necessarily mean healthy--arsenic, uranium and formaldehyde are natural yet poisonous. And as far as non-toxic goes, everything is can be toxic, or deadly in sufficient dosages including oxygen, water and salt.

-Be clear on the criteria used by ecolabels and certifications. The hotel sector has introduced quite a few, such as Green Seal (US), Green Key (Canada) and Green Globe (Europe and Austral-asia). These are all third party certifications which that look at green operations. LEED certification looks at green construction. When researching ecolabels and certifications look for those that use clear criteria, adopt third party verification and report regularly on their environmental performance.

-Participate in a back of house tour. This is the most effective way to ensure that vendors who claim to be green are actually operating in a green way. Ask to see the kitchen and areas where waste is sorted. Vendors who are being honest will not be fearful of letting you see what they do in the back of house.

-Be transparent in your own practices. Do what you say and be honest about what you do. Your risk of greenwashing your own practices is reduced when you are clear and up front about your commitment, intentions and actions.

The general rule of thumb still appies: Caveat emptor – buyer beware!

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