Green cleaning services and products have been plagued with a rise in misleading labeling, branding, and marketing, commonly referred to as ‘greenwashing.’
Green Cleaning Services and the Issue of Greenwashing
Greenwashing is defined as the;
Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.
While intentionally deceiving the public about your organization’s environmental protection policies is unethical, and inadvisable in today’s market, knowingly providing false labeling and branding to products that contain dangerous toxins that can have severe long-term health implications should be criminal–but it turns out, it is not.
According to Fox News;
In 1960, the U.S. government passed the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, freeing companies from disclosing dangerous ingredients in household products unless harmful side effects appear immediately after improper use.
The issue has extended into many modern health and wellness related markets, as even ‘organic’ food producers are being brought to task for the misleading labeling and content of their products.
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Fortunately, several organizations have stepped up to identify and promote safe, or safer, cleaning products for use in the home, health care, child care, education, commercial, and industrial environments.
Why Greenwashing is a Problem
Greenwashing and the inevitable resulting damage is bad for everyone.
- Environment – Regardless of your position on climate change, the damage pollution and waste have done to our food, air, and water supply is evident for anyone to see. Greenwashing betrays one of the cornerstone goals of environmentally-friendly product purchasing, as it betrays the public trust as to what kinds of chemicals are being returned, in a toxic form, to the local environment and contributing to heightened health concerns and future resource availability.
- Consumers – While environmentally conscientious purchasing is at the forefront of the mind of modern consumers, by far the largest portion of biodegradable and environmentally friendly purchasing is done for health reasons–people do not want to dump hazardous toxins into their homes, schools, and places of business. Greenwashing, again, betrays the public trust by misleading consumers into believing that what they are using comes with little to no health risk, leading to increased and unnecessary exposure to, quite often, undisclosed chemicals that have been proven to cause a wide range of illnesses, birth defects, and premature death.
- Businesses – After years of effort, businesses have now seen and been provided with the incentives and tools to make socially conscious, and environmentally responsible decisions that improve the local environment, the health and wellbeing of their workers and customers, as well as their local community. Greenwashing denies these businesses their right to claim sustainable and ecologically responsible business practices, while unknowingly exposing their investors, customers, and workers to unnecessary risk.
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What You can do to Avoid Greenwashing
Until government legislation is passed, and product manufacturers are held responsible for their claims, and the chemicals that are included in their products are fully disclosed, the burden of validating the ‘green’ nature of a product or process falls on the consumer.
Fortunately, two organizations have stepped up to assist end-consumers, business, as well as school and healthcare administrators, make smarter, healthier decisions.
Our sustainability standards for products, services, and companies are based on life-cycle research, and are developed in an open, transparent, and stakeholder-involved process.
Green Seal standards provide criteria and guidelines for manufacturers, service providers, and companies to work toward sustainability and Green Seal certification.
Green Seal has 33 issued standards that cover 400 product and service categories.
EPA – Safer Choice
Safer Choice is EPA’s label for safer chemical-based products.
Every chemical, regardless of percentage, in a Safer Choice-labeled product is evaluated through EPA’s rigorous scientific process and only the safest ingredients are allowed.
For over 15 years, the program has labeled products that are safer for families, pets, workplaces, neighborhoods, and the environment.
The label represents leadership in safer product formulation.
References & Resources
- Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) Requirements
- About Greenwashing
- What Is Greenwashing?
- “Greenwashing”: Deceptive Business Claims of “Eco-Friendliness”
- The Seven Sins of Greenwashing
Greenwashing represents a breakdown in consumer advocacy, corporate responsibility, responsible legislation, as well as product research and documentation, leading to the potentially deadly application and waste disposal of harmful chemicals into our immediate environment.
As consumer demand and public interest in personal and environmentally healthy and conscious product purchasing increases, fraudulent advertisers and manufacturers are being outed for their misleading marketing and labeling, and their products are disappearing from the shelves.
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