Informative article describes backlash against dubious “green” labels.

Informative article describes backlash against dubious “green” labels.

Posted by Evan Beach at May 25, 2010 10:00 AM | Permalink

The Wall Street Journal provides an in-depth look at a recent controversy over “green” labeling in the United States.


An article by Vanessa O’Connell in the Wall Street Journal discusses rising consumer interest in environmentally friendly products, the dubious claims made by manufacturers and the resulting lawsuits and government actions. The story sheds light on a growing concern about false advertising, but it would have benefited from further discussion of government efforts to remedy the situation.

The article describes how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is attempting to referee various seals of approval, eco-labels and other marketing schemes that advertise green benefits like biodegradability. The FTC’s Green Guides for manufacturers provide some guidance but have not been revised since 1998. A current review of the outdated guides may address some of the marketing changes since then.

The story also shows how transparency with respect to self-endorsement or third-party approvals has become an issue. For example, SC Johnson’s Greenlist program won a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yet the way the Greenlist system is applied to products remains proprietary and the labels are added at the company’s sole discretion.

Other government agencies are taking steps to address the concerns highlighted in the article. For example, the EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (DfE) offers labels for a variety of consumer products deemed to be best-in-class. The DfE scheme calls for continuous improvement in eco-friendly attributes and is based on strict, transparent criteria. Legislation introduced earlier in April would give the EPA greater authority to recognize safer alternatives to hazardous products in this way.

By mentioning these intitiatives, the reporter would have added important information for consumers who are concerned about the issue of false claims.

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