Green, green-washing, and communication?

NPR_RecyclingPlant1Green is mainstream or so I’m reminded by UL (Underwriters Laboratories). At one time they were producing regular reports about green-washing, but it appears the money is elsewhere. None the less, the industry is moving forward with real initiatives demanded by customers and their advocates. The story below points out that there has been a production rise of “16 percent in the last five years” for cups made from paper. That’s a rise of 3% per year, almost the same as organic food.

People vote with their wallets.

 

 Your coffee cup probably isn’t recyclable… yet

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/your-coffee-cup-probably-isnt-recyclable%E2%80%A6-yet

In the computer industry, we have a term  similar familiar to green-washing it is known as buzz-word compliant. (Not the same – of course.)

Image source Oregon Sports News

Image source Oregon Sports News

Back to the subject, in 1992 – during his run for president – Ross Perot reminded us that one of the growth areas in business was Garbage. Even so, if you go into most Internet businesses in Silicon Valley you’ll see the obligatory three garbage cans – blue, green and grey. But here’s the test of company communications. Ask someone in the office, which garbage goes in which can. Chances are *someone* in the office can give you a good answer, but look in the cans and more often that not you’ll see a different answer than what you’ve just heard.

In case you are caught short, here is a bit about The Seven Sins of Green Washing.

But if you don’t want follow the link, here are the sins:

  1. Sin of Hidden Trade-off – such as bleaching paper white
  2. Sin of No Proof – claiming as such with no third party verification
  3. Sin of Vagueness – such as, All-natural (my favorite, see below)
  4. Sin of Worshing False Labels – like using the word “green”, when it’s not
  5. Sin of Irrelevance – example: CFC-free, but it’s been banned for years
  6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils – Organic cigarettes?
  7. Sin of Fibbing – Just a lie

As you can read below, the term “NATURAL” has regulatory issues. As such, it has little meaning we you see a product using that word — with sole exception of meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Regardless of what you see, if regulation is involved, money will move the regulation.


 

From the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)usda_gov_logo

Natural. As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.

From the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) fda_gov_logo

What is the meaning of ‘natural’ on the label of food?

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

 

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