How sustainable are your favourite brands?

News, blog and backgrounds about the sustainability scores of brands

Telling lies? For shame!

How do you know when a company is telling porkies online? We hear this question all the time at Rank a Brand, and it matters because we base our rankings on the information that companies publish. How confident can we be that the information they publish is true?

Consumer 2.0
Companies do everything they can to build solid-gold reputations. And sure, for some, this means telling lies. But in the digital age, consumers are just not that easy to fool. For a start, companies have far less control over what gets published about them – especially online. Through blogs, forums and social media, consumers can share information much more quickly and much more widely, to bring the truth to a huge audience in no time at all. In short, online information sharing can make or break a company”s reputation. This is Media 2.0, and it”s built on the knowledge and influence of the Consumer 2.0.

When a company says it is greener or more socially responsibly than it actually is, then it is guilty of greenwashing. Luckily, there are independent organizations that spend all their time keeping a close eye on what companies say best online casino and do. Rank a Brand is one. And another is TerraChoice, an American environmental marketing agency. Every year, it publishes its own research into greenwashing practices. Its 2010 report, entitled “The Seven Sins of Greenwashing”, lists the most common practices that companies use to deliberately mislead consumers over the environmentally friendliness of their products. And it included some surprising results.

Ranking the brand: how we sniff out greenwashing

Click here for the used questions

Ranking the seven sins
According to TerraChoice, there are hardly any companies that commit the most grievous greenwashing sin of all – lying. Much more common, however, is the sin of vagueness (for example, saying that a product is “100% natural” without saying how or why) and the sin of false certification (a company-run eco-certification scheme that has no independent verification). So it seems that, while companies don”t dare to actually lie, they are very comfortable with twisting or obscuring the truth. This is not news to Rank a Brand. We have built controls against all seven sins identified by TerraChoice into our ranking method. If concrete information or external verification is lacking, we only award a question mark. And that results in lower scores for the brands. Naturally, we will never be able to say with absolute certainty that companies don”t tell outright lies – but we”re confident that the chance is very small. The risk of being caught out is too high, and the damage this would cause would be too great.

Your choice
TerraChoice is optimistic about the future because the percentage of pious companies that don”t sin at all is slowly increasing, a change that it puts down to the growing power of the consumer. It seems that when consumers demand information, companies are increasingly trying to provide the relevant data without greenwashing. And with greenwashing a no-no, companies can”t get away with hiding unsustainable practices, so they”re greening up their products and production processes instead. In this way, people can choose from an increasingly wide assortment of green goods. And by using our rankings, consumers don”t need to worry about being fooled by the greenwashers. Because that would be a sin, too…

Find out what the other five sins of greenwashing are in TerraChoice”s Greenwashing Report 2010 (pg 10)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 27/10/2011 at 20:08 | Permalink

    Nohtnig I could say would give you undue credit for this story.