How Prevalent is Greenwash These Days?

  January 23, 2015

Today's tip of the day looks at whether greenwashing for green building products is as prevalent as it used to be.

About 10 years ago, the editors of Building Operating Management magazine endeavored to put together a "Green Products Directory" — a document listing how products contributed to individual LEED credits. It didn't go as well as we hoped. We relied on a manufacturer questionnaire to tell us the specific high-performance attributes of their products, as well as which credits their products helped meet.

Some product manufacturers nailed it — even back then, these vendors were sophisticated about their green marketing and knew enough to trust their customers, instead of trying to fool them. Others replies to the questionnaire weren't so great — and this resulted in claims of "energy efficient access control systems" and "productivity-enhancing paint products."

These days, the high-performance building products market has advanced by leaps and bounds — both in terms of how manufacturers talk about their products and also the criteria facility managers use to buy them. But that doesn't mean that "greenwashing" has totally disappeared.

As BuildingGreen put it in a recent email, "Greenwash has gone from being a novel way to market products to being just another tool of the huckster." So greenwash hasn't totally disappeared, but it's much less overt these days than in the past, when it was actually tougher to tell what was greenwash and was legitimate.

To help determine the difference, BuildingGreen developed this fantastic info graphic that explains the "shades" of greenwash. Many of them you'll recognize both for building products, as well as consumer products.


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