The term Greenwashing has been around for a couple decades or so. It describes businesses that make general unsubstantiated environmental claims in order to attract environmentally concerned customers to their business. Now the Federal Trade Commission is beginning to crack down on businesses that make general claims that are self-reported, not-transparent and not measured. Let’s take two fake businesses and put them side-by-side.

Let’s call the first one Pasta Hut. They make the following environmental claims:

• “Farm to Table”

• “Organic and Local Whenever Possible”

• “We care about the environment”

• They have a recycling symbol on their menu. Next to it, it says “Do your part”

The second restaurant is called Barbara’s Sandwich Haven. They make the following environmental claims:

• “2 Star Certified Green Restaurant®”

• 50 Environmental Steps

• 160 GreenPoints™

• 95% Waste Reduction

• 25% Energy Saved

• 10% of food comes from within 100 miles

• See the following link to see all 50 of our environmental steps

Pasta Hut is using general “feel-good” phrases that are not objective. “Farm to Table” can mean various different things to various different restaurants. “Organic and Local Whenever Possible” can mean 100% organic and local; or it can mean 0%. The “whenever possible” makes it a subjective term. In addition, their claims are self-made; there is no outside verification.

Barbara’s Sandwich Haven is specifically stating how many environmental changes it made, and what level of certification it has met. That indicates that all of its changes have been vetted by a 3rd party organization. It lists some of the 50 steps in the list, and it gives you a link to find more information on all of its steps. It is not subjective or self-reported.

The FTC’s Green Marketing Guidelines are making it easier for consumers to be able to begin to see more specific environmental claims that are vetted; versus general environmental claims that leave the consumer not knowing exactly what they mean. The Green Restaurant Association has supported this philosophy for 25 years. Transparency, standards, and legitimate verifying bodies create a marketplace that is trustworthy, which spawns consumer demand and industry innovation. When buying a product, dining at a restaurant, or selling a product, make sure there are real environmental standards and a real environmental organization behind the claims.