Report hangs US ‘greenwashers’ out to dry

America's ten worst "greenwashers" have been identified and accused of targeting consumers, investors and policy makers alike by a Green Life report this week.

The report Don’t be fooled: America’s ten worst greenwashers is designed to help values-based consumers, socially responsible investors and government officials make their decisions based on accurate environmental information.

It documents the scope, content and impact of the nation’s most egregious cases of greenwash in marketing and public relations, scrutinising organisations based on the comparisons of their environmental rhetoric to the reality of their actual performance.

“These greenwashers account for a major share of a mounting obstacle to sustainability,” programme coordinator of the Green Life, Geoffrey Johnson warned. “Greenwash has grown along with the environmental awareness it aims to exploit.”

“More Americans than ever are trying to make environmentally responsible choices, but by blurring the boundaries between helpful and damaging products and companies, greenwash makes our choices more difficult.”

Ford Motor Company topped the list for its current advertising campaign illustrating “The greening of the Blue Oval”, which highlighted the Escape Hybrid and the eco-friendly River Rouge factory as symbols of Ford’s overall environmental performance.

However, according to the report, hybrids represent just one half of a percent of the company’s annual sales, and roughly one quarter of F-150s, which has the worst in-class fuel economy, are made each month beneath River Rouge’s vegetation-covered roof.

Second on the list was BP, with their advertising slogan “beyond petroleum”. The report showed that, while the amount of solar panels sold by the company would save around 0.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetime, the amount of fossil-fuel products sold emitted around 1,298 million tonnes of carbon dioxide at the same time.

Coming in at third place was the United States Forest Service, which paid a PR firm US $113,000 of tax payers money to develop the Forests with a future scheme, promoting revisions to the Sierra Nevada Framework to more than triple annual timber removal long California’s eastern edge.

In order, others pulled up by the list included General Motors, ChevronTexaco, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, TruGreen ChemLawn, Xcel Energy and the National Ski Areas Association.

Notably, seven of those listed were from either the auto or energy industries.

“As global warming assumes greater importance in the market and policy arena, we’re witnessing a rise in the frequency of misleading advertisements from greenhouse-gas emitters touting their commitment to green technologies,” Mr Johnson said.

The advertising campaigns in question were featured in opinion-leading publications such as TIME, the National Geographic, The Economist and the Washington Post.

By Jane Kettle

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