Sustainability: FTC Examines Greenwashing

I know there have been a lot of sustainability posts lately, but there’s a lot going on recently! This post in particular covers an important development for everyone in the sustainability game–and those thinking about getting in it, too.

The Federal Trade Commission held its first in what will be a series of hearings on green advertising, particularly on the issue of offsets and where money given to offset organizations goes. If you’re unconvinced this is a worthy FTC issue, consider this:

‘Dubbed “the wild west” and “chaotic” by Katherine Hamilton of Ecosystem Marketplace, the U.S. carbon offset market has grown dramatically since 2005 while environmental marketing claims have gone relatively unchecked. Hamilton pegs the U.S. carbon offset market at $91 million. She expects the market to quadruple within the next five years.’

Of course, it’s not just offsets that are going to be considered by the FTC–all green marketing and advertising will soon come under scrutiny. Sites like EnviroMedia’s Greenwashing Index are popping up in an effort to combat and inform consumers about greenwashed claims but government intervention will be the only way to mandate regulation.

The point I’m slowly meandering towards is that everyone, including Four51, talking about sustainability and how they can help (however seemingly insignificant) is wise to be careful and deliberate about what is said because even the best and purest intentions can become problematic if they’re not provable.


Marketing: A responsible marketing campaign

Here’s a phrase you don’t hear every day: “a responsible marketing campaign.” And I don’t mean responsible like, “Way to stay in budget, Chip!” I mean responsible like, “Hey Chip, way to create an impactful marketing campaign that has a sound, socially responsible message behind it.”

This thought and phrase came from a Marketing Profs article talking about how Disney is packaging healthy food (like veggies) with familiar Disney characters. The idea, obviously, is to tempt kids to eat stuff they usually won’t.

Of course it’s easy to be cynical and say that Disney doesn’t deserve too much credit for marketing that makes them money, but as the article points out, this campaign is actually a result of Disney’s “pledge to the Federal Trade Commission this past July to do its part to address the child obesity problem with a responsible marketing program.” Yes, this will make Disney money and perpetuate its characters in the minds of children. However, it does these things while dressing up orange crates and carrot packs, not cookie bags and sugary drinks. It’s nice to see real dedication to a worthwhile cause.

This example reminds me exactly of printers marketing their “green” capabilities…good for you, good for me, good for society.