Blogs turn up heat on greenwash

Bloggers have increasingly switched the focus of their online musings to environmental sustainability - and are taking a particular interest in companies' actions.

A report from US market research firm Nielsen Online shows the online buzz about sustainability grew 50% in 2007.

Consumers were quick to use the web to condemn greenwashing and voice their scepticism about corporations, researchers found.

“When it comes to the environment, consumers are insisting on both transparency and consistency from the corporations they patronise,” said Jessica Hogue, research director for Nielsen Online.

“Consumer support depends on action as well as perceived sincerity and commitment.”

The most popular greenwashing topics included contradictory actions and false or misleading comments.

Researchers found consumers also took a different view of the same CSR actions depending on the company’s reputation and history.

For example, competitors Wal-Mart and Target both introduced reusable shopping bags, but shoppers were more sceptical of Wal-Mart’s actions because of its association with environmental, labour, and health care issues, the report said.

Blogs from the beginning of last year were dominated by climate change, but as the year progressed, discussions of this and other traditional green topics such as organics and carbon emissions actually declined.

However, bloggers increasingly turned their attention to other environmental topics, such as renewable energy, pollution and sustainable transport.

Ms Hogue said: “As in many sectors, consumers are becoming increasingly vocal online about the issue of sustainability.

“Blogger attention to related issues like pollution, toxins and sustainable agriculture reveal an important intersection between personal health and environmental wellness.”

The most used sustainability blog in 2007 was the Discovery Channel’s TreeHugger site, which posted 4,612 messages related specifically to sustainability last year.

The number two site, Worldchanging, had just 738 by comparison.

Kate Martin

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