Yesterday, my husband found an egregious example of greenwashing in the newspaper. There was a letter to the editor saying there is no discernible difference between conventional mono-crop agriculture and organic techniques. We found that the person who wrote the letter is employed at an organization that receives funds from Monsanto and Cargill, both of whom are heavily invested in genetically modified crop production.
Let's understand, ladies. Companies and people who fake being green have their own term: greenwashing.
(more on Greenwashing: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Greenwashing)
Wouldn't you chase after a 20% growth rate (organic produce) instead of the flat 2% conventional produce growth rate?
Here are three ways for you to find out if the organization or company you support is greenwashing or is truly working to support people, planet, and profits:
1) Follow the money.
Who funds the organization? If funding comes from sources that are very different from your own values, consider spending your money elsewhere.
What kinds of grants or expenditures does the company fund?
Where do company founders or leaders give campaign or political donations? www.opensecrets.org
Who are the main partners or investors, and who do they support?
Typically, an organization needs to fulfill obligations to whoever gives them money.
2) Understand the name.
A think tank, non-profit, or initiative may have an innocuous or tame-sounding name but its purpose may be to confuse and cloud the issue.
For example, Green Girl Guru Meghan runs C5 company, which offers sustainable fine jewelry. In their blog, they talk about how the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme clouds the issues behind where a diamond is sourced: marketing scheme of conflict-free on c5company blog.
Do a little research to understand if the certification that the group promotes has some public input or has publicly available information about it. If there is no good information available, the effort may be a lobbying effort or a marketing ploy.
3) Drill down.
When a company is green, what does that exactly mean?
Is the building painted green? Do they have a nicely landscaped view? Are they green in their marketing materials but not in their business practices?
Real green practices include stated and measured objectives in water conservation, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and solid waste recycling.
If you run a business, consider putting your practices into a public place like an online "report card" (here is my own sample: 10K Webdesign Environmental/Social Responsibility Report Card).
Many states and regional groups do not yet offer a comprehensive green certification process. Consider finding national certification or working within your local community to come up with some Green Business checklists that other merchants and businesses may take on.
While the temptation exists to be "more greener than thou," the real test outcome is healthier air, a secure watershed, an increase in biodegradable materials over non-recyclable items, and an inhabitable planet for the next generations.
We'll be offering a Green Girls checklist of how to green your own business in the weeks to come: I invite your ideas as comments, or Twitter me suggestions.
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Monica S. Flores of is committed to educating, empowering, and connecting women in business — she believes in the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits.