What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.”
Environmentally conscious consumers rely on corporate messages to inform their purchasing choices. Yet it is not uncommon for organizations to make misleading environmental claims that promote switching from paper to electronic services as better for the environment, e.g., “go paperless – go green’ and ‘go paperless, save trees.”
What are the rules on environmental claims?
The misleading aspects of most paperless marketing slogans fail to meet the requirements of many established environmental standards, such as the Green Guides of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Competition Bureau of Canada, and the ISO 14021 standard. All these standards specify that vague claims (such as “green” and “eco-friendly”) should not be used and that claims must be specific and require substantiation based on recognized scientific methods.
Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.
-U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 2013
What do customers think about these claims?
Financial organizations, utilities, telecoms and governments are increasingly encouraging their customers to go paperless. But switching to digital is not always welcome as many consumers value paper-based communication.
A survey conducted by Two Sides in 2021 found that 78% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from their service providers. 67% believe they should not be charged more for choosing paper bills or statements and 41% would consider changing providers if forced to go digital-only. In addition, 57% agree that claims about the switch to digital being better for the environment are made because the sender wants to save money.
What to do if you find misleading claims
Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organizations found to be misleading consumers by using broad, unsubstantiated environmental claims about the use of paper. If you notice misleading environmental claims from your service providers, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org