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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?

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