The Greenwash Brigade

A proliferation of definitions – that’s the problem

Janne K. Flisrand Jan 12, 2008
Share Now on:
The Greenwash Brigade

A proliferation of definitions – that’s the problem

Janne K. Flisrand Jan 12, 2008

Heidi reports 8 million web pages featuring sustainable development, and pointed out that there is “no dearth of sustainability criteria, labels and certification systems.” Frankly, I think that’s precisely the problem. Just reading her post, I felt so overwhelmed my brain tuned out.

I see two problems.

1) If there are 8 million pages featuring sustainable development, it’s too many to be any good for “regular” non-expert people. It’s also so many, manufacturers can find the right one to fit their purposes, honorable or not.

2) Too many criteria, labels and certification systems confuse consumers. Which of the multiple fair trade certifications is best? Certainly niche products (like low-VOC building products) need a very specific certification, but that’s not useful for general consumers. Hyper-stringent standards (like Cradle to Cradle) also play a role, but they aren’t accessible to most products.

There needs to be a small number of certifications that are meaningful, achieve significant market penetration so they can be found in stores, and that people can recognize and grasp — think Energy Star.

I simply don’t think the American consumer — an expert at consuming, but not an expert in every technical area of manufacturing — who wants to consume in a more sustainable way should need a masters degree to understand labeling on products.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.

We’re here for you.

As COVID-19 reshapes our economy, our newsletter will help you unpack the news from the day.