A Subtle but Significant Difference: Green Claims and Green Washing

Green washing is making a misleading or unverifiable marketing claim about the apparent greenness of a product. To avoid such blunders, which can also be costly if it falls foul of the various regulations involved, you can rely on the expert advice of SGS's eco-design consultants.

Packaging and other marketing materials are often used to put forward a green image, highlight savings in environmental impact and advise consumers how to recycle the product. However, when the rules and regulations are misinterpreted or not complied with, a company risks having its green claim regarded as "green washing" instead.


Green washing is when a company misleadingly portrays its products or services as environmentally friendly when they are not, either intentionally or by mistake. Examples of this include bald statements like they are "environmentally friendly", stating that chemicals are absent that can never be present in a material or stating that recycled materials were used without making it clear whether this refers to the packaging (http://www.sustainability.sgs.com/consumergoods/news/packaging-ecodesign-a-global-trend.htm) or the product.

The Right Approach

Specific regulations include the ISO 14020 series (http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=34425), the EU 84/450/ CEE Directive as well as, for instance, the guidelines from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the International Code Council (ICC) and the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which all stipulate the way a company can showcase its environmental friendliness through packaging.

In practice, a company engaging in green washing, while initially profiting from an alleged green benefit, exposes itself to backlashes from angry consumers and the displeasure of regulators (restrictions, fines, product recalls, seizures, etc.).

SGS has a dedicated team of consultants and experts to help you comply with the regulations and protect the reputation of your company and products. We can also assist with your environmental communication strategy, help you develop a label, and improve the eco-design (http://www.sustainability.sgs.com/consumergoods/ecodesign.htm) of your product.

For more information, please contact us at:

Global Sustainability Services
Cécile Oger
Consulting & Development Director, SGS France
29, avenue Aristide Briand, 94110 Arcueil, France

t +33 1 41 24 87 47
f: +33 1 41 24 89 90

E-mail: cts.media@sgs.com
Website: www.sustainability.sgs.com

SGS is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With 64,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.

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