Bailing Up Green Business

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There are a lot of large companies purporting to produce products and services that are greener than ever.  However, you may wonder which ones are trustworthy, and which ones are guilty of “greenwashing” their image.  There are a few things you can do to avoid falling prey to marketing exaggerations.  Here are some ways to find out whether a business is truly green.

First, take a look at the company’s past history.  If they were known for being destructive in the past, a sudden switch to genuine concern seems suspect.  Sometimes organizations really have seen the light, and are making enormous changes to improve things.  However, in other cases, they’ll simply have changed a few cosmetic things or started focusing their PR efforts on one small area.  No real improvements have been made, but they want the public to believe they’re green.

Don’t take the word of marketing departments – be willing to ask about the changes yourself.  Contact a company or organization in writing (an email or a plain old letter) and ask about their claims.  It’s relatively easy to get consumer inquiry contact information on most companies, and some even have an address listed on their webpages.  Be polite and well spoken, but don’t be afraid to ask important questions.  Go beyond the rumor mill to find out what’s really going on.

Remember that the questions which aren’t answered are just as important as or even more important than the ones the company will answer.  Rephrase any questions you haven’t gotten an answer about, and don’t just let them slide.  Chances are, you won’t get the response you want, but if a company is happy to tell you answers about some things, but silent on others, this could tell you something about their commitment to the environment.  A lack of response can indicate that your concerns are founded, or that the company simply doesn’t know!

Make sure you use written communication, rather than telephone or other methods.  That’s because emails are more legally useful than a phone call.  It’s easier to make an untruthful statement on the phone, because proving it is much harder.  You’re probably not trying to take a company to court, but they don’t know that.  This means they’re less likely to lie outright in written communication.  They can, however, say nothing.

Web searches can also tell you things about the way a given company works, but you’ll want to think about who’s doing the reporting and where they got the information, first.  Unfounded claims are just as suspect as marketing information.  If there’s an issue you’re concerned about, go directly to the company in writing, and keep an eye out for weasel words and mis-leading business-speak in replies.  When you can’t get a straight answer, something is usually up.

Of course, writing to companies about their practices isn’t just about catching them in the act.  If they hear from enough people, often enough, they’ll eventually realize that simply marketing themselves as green isn’t going to be good enough.  They’re going to actually have to do something about it to keep from losing customers.  Find out what you need to know and let organizations know that you care – send an email with your questions to any company you’re not sure about.

Related posts:

  1. Green-Based Business – Triple Bottom Line
  2. Greenwashing: A Practical Guide to Spending Responsibly
  3. Making Your Very Own Green Building Business Plan
  4. Green Eco-Friendly Marketing
  5. Cell Phone Recycling
  6. Be Green and Buy Carbon Offsets

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