News Release: April 1, 2004

April 1, 2004

Report Profiles Corporate Greenwashers, Exposes Environmental Misinformation Targeted at Consumers and Schoolchildren

BOSTON—On April Fool’s Day, The Green Life released the 12th annual Don’t Be Fooled report profiling the 10 worst greenwashers of 2003. The report holds corporations accountable for the integrity of their environmental messages in marketing and public relations.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines greenwash as, “Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”

“We’re all familiar with greenwash at some level,” said Geoff Johnson, Program Coordinator of The Green Life. “It shows up on product packaging in the form of vague labels like ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘all-natural,’ it’s in advertisements that show SUVs at home in the wilderness, and it’s in the way corporations churn out environmental rhetoric about ‘sound science’ and ‘sustainability.’”

The Don’t Be Fooled Report finds that new forms of greenwash are emerging as corporations, industry groups and government agencies explore innovative ways to mislead the public about their environmental commitment.

One alarming development is the advancement of the logging and biotechnology industries into American school systems. Project Learning Tree, an environmental education curriculum taught in over 300,000 classrooms, is a program of the American Forest Foundation, whose members include over 100 logging and paper companies. The Council for Biotechnology Information, funded by Monsanto, publishes “Look Closer at Biotechnology,” an activity book targeted at 3rd and 4th graders.

“Greenwashers are attempting to take over environmental education in this country,” stated Johnson. “Clearly they believe the children are their future. They’re writing and publishing educational materials that promote their agendas and providing them for free to underfunded and overburdened schools. Our kids are being shown the wonders of tree farms and genetically modified foods without being taught to think critically.”

The report does not focus exclusively on the worst environmental offenders. In fact, several of the corporations profiled are recognized by consumers as environmentally progressive. Yet, the report reveals, such corporations have a tendency to slow down their environmental progress once they are perceived to be a step ahead of their competitors.

“Whether they’ve earned their reputation or not,” said Johnson, “corporations that are considered to be an environmental leader in their industry often take advantage of the public’s trust. Some, like Starbucks and BP, rest on their laurels, at least compared to the progress they could be making, until a competitor challenges their environmental leadership. Others, like Subaru this past year, move backwards on the environment and hope that it won’t get noticed.”

The complete ten worst list consists of the American Chemistry Council, Avalon Natural Products, BP, the Environmental Protection Agency, Monsanto Company, Project Learning Tree, Royal Caribbean International, Salmon of the Americas, Starbucks Coffee Company and Subaru.

The Don’t Be Fooled Report is a project of The Green Life’s “Take Greenwash to the Cleaners” campaign, designed to explain, expose and erase greenwash in marketing and public relations. Copies are available at The Green Life, formerly Earthday Resources for Living Green, is a non-profit organization that promotes simplicity, health and sustainability in daily life.