The Greenwash Brigade

The case of Trek: Can an ambitious green initiative still be greenwash?

Janne K. Flisrand Sep 19, 2008

Yesterday, I got into a bit of a debate with my boyfriend. He was showing me a cool site, 1 World 2 Wheels, a Trek initiative with a goal of increasing cycling five-fold by 2017. They’re supporting advocacy organizations who promote bicycle-friendly communities in the US. We both love this program!

But – here’s the debate. I called it greenwash. He disagreed.

I think Trek is trying to get green cred by tagging a great project with a vague environmental theme (1 World) to throw a green shadow on the entire company. The initiative is great, but supporting an environmentally great initiative does not make for a green company.

Hoping to move the discussion along, I went back to the Six Sins of Greenwashing report from TerraChoice for a definition.

Trek is asserting biking is the answer to many environmental and societal problems, but they aren’t making specific claims – what I call the “green shadow.” It looks like The Sin of Irrelevance to me. Because biking is green doesn’t mean Trek is green.

For Trek to be an environmentally-friendly company, they’d need to examine their production practices, their printing, the buildings they use, how they transport product, human resources policies, sourcing policies – the whole CSR package.

The question goes right back to what’s Trek’s intent: Are they trying to give the entire company a green sheen with 1 World 2 Wheels? Or using savvy promoting to increase demand for their product and brand awareness?

My gut says the first, my boyfriend’s says the second. Got a tie-breaking opinion?

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.