Complaints Based Environmentalism Is Dead, Long Live The Complaints!
So you fell for it; a green, eco product was sold you and it’s a total scam. What are your options? You can yell, kick and scream in your kitchen, but it won’t help you. Go online, and yell, kick and scream!
Even though Complaints Environmentalism has convincingly been declared dead by the writers of the controversial book The Breakthrough, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, greenwashing is taking off big time. Marketing studies underscore that in some cases 99% of all products sold as green are essentially harmful to the environment. So who are we kidding here? It’s high time to gang up on the naivety!
This is a first assessment of what your legal rights are as a green consumer. Greenwashing, which has been defined as “the practice of co-opting the trappings of the green movement without the business practices to back it up” is illegal. But thus far there have been few high profile court cases.
Craig Bachman, an attorney at Lane Powell PC and intellectual property specialist, believes greenwashing is a spill over effect from the regular ad industry. He’s quoted on Bullivant.com outlining one case which set a precedent in legal history was the LePage’s ‘biodegradable’ cellophane tape. The catch was that the tape itself was biodegradable, the product’s packaging wasn’t. The Federal Trade Commission clamped down on the Pittsburg based company and an out of court settlement swept the news under the carpet.
The fact that greenwashing is mostly a marketing issue means that you won’t often get real, tangible damage cases. In the future, we will likely see battles over semantics. There’s notoriously little clarity in Green marketing so hold your breath. Companies will increasingly be held accountable for implicit claims made in their advertising. If you thought the world had moved online, think again; we’re fast dematerializing in more than one way! The lingo guidelines in the US vary from state to state AND at federal level at the moment, says Bulivant.com.
At the moment, the Federal Trade Commission is trying to clear out the wildgrowth of rules and regulations as it copes with unfair trade practices. It is redrafting its environmental guide, known as the Green Guide which helps businesses navigate the terminology of environmental marketing of offering guidelines of what might constitute “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” prohibited by Section 5 of the FTC Act.
So what are the recourse options for green consumers?
Check out the Organic Consumer Association to complain and for clear rules about what makes a product ‘organic’.
If you feel green ads are misleading you can contact the the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau. These guys refer cases to the FTC and other agencies with oversight of particular product categories, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Go to Cornucopia. The agricultural products complaints specialists.
Write a story on your blog and submit it on MindBodyGreen. It’s a kind of digg archive for front page green stories and has a wide readership.
Check out RipOffReport. A true sour face platform (old style)! This 10 year old website is jam packed with advice for legal action. Companies accused of wrongdoings have the chance to repair their reputations and many cases get picked up by newspapers. You’ll probably need some time to go through all the options you have as a wronged consumer. But if your complaint is serious, it’s a decent option.
Go to the Yell-O-Pages and complain using a fast and easy to use form. It’s a shoutbox more than anything else. Service is new and when checked earlier today, there were no green or eco complaints.
There’s Ventbox. This site is very similar to Yell-O-Pages.com. Till now there’s a total absence of any Green, Bio, Ethical, Eco complaints.
Last but not least, check out WhoIsWrong. It’s where people go to condemn a public issue. Most of the topics are lighthearted though. No ‘Green’ or ‘Eco’ cases yet! Unless you want to know what people think of wearing a bluetooth headset as a fashion accessory is a green issue.
You can also alert us here by going to the Info/Contact page and writing a quick line.