The Greenwashing Challenge

The Greenwashing Challenge by Frank Dalene

As the general populace becomes more aware of—and more concerned about—climate change, the green movement has gained a great deal of momentum in the market. Consumers are eager to buy products that are more environmentally friendly, that have a lower carbon footprint, that are more “green.” Obviously, this is a good trend—but it has given rise to a major challenge: greenwashing.

As companies realize the competitive advantage of being “green,” they are eager to label their products and services as such. But there’s a hitch: so far, there have been no objective, standardized systems, based on math and science, to measure and certify something as “green.” As a result, every industry, and even individual companies, can create their own subjective rating system, with no actual scientific relationship to the greenness of the product. Essentially, anybody can label a product as “green,” without any objective metrics to back it up.

Many green rating systems currently available have little objective relationship to how green a product actually is. And some systems are, in fact, entirely misleading—either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, a product may have a green label and even some green attributes. Meanwhile, the operations of the manufacturer who produces that product may be dumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The manufacturing process to create the so-called “green” product may actually cause more harm to the environment than any positive environmental impact the product itself may have.

This is why many self-proclaimed “green leaders” are no such thing. They may plaster certifications and symbols all over their products declaring themselves to be “environmentally friendly,” but these certifications don’t connect to any objective standard. They are self-assessed and self-awarded—and completely empty of meaning.

That’s not to say every manufacturer or industry out there is purposefully trying to mislead the public about their environmental impact. Some industries, such as the construction industry, have even attempted to standardize green ratings through third-party certification programs like those created by the US Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders. But even the points awarded by those well-intentioned rating systems are ultimately arbitrary. While the points may seem to align with green attributes, they have no actual scientific underpinning tying them to objective measurements of a positive environmental impact.

Currently, there is simply no way for a consumer to know whether a “green” label actually means anything. And because of the competitive advantage of being “green,” the green label has become overused and abused. Consumers are starting to realize this, and it is eroding trust in the green movement. Many people have become skeptical of anything “green,” suspecting it of simply being greenwashing.

The only way to combat the greenwashing challenge is to have an objective rating and certification system, based on science and math. This is exactly what ICEMAN does: using established science, it mathematically defines the carbon footprint of a product or service, based on actual measurements of greenhouse gas emissions. This objective certification will be impervious to greenwashing, thereby restoring integrity to the green movement and giving consumers the certainty of knowing that the “green” products they are purchasing are, in fact, green.