Getting Over Greenwashing

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Feb. 1, 2011

Green claims and bold fonts. They attract the eye of environmentally conscious consumers – an ever-expanding group in today’s market. So it pretty much goes without saying, if you’re selling something, you’re doing your utmost to tout your eco-friendly and green features. But the claim to be green has gotten a little, well, grey.

To state that there have been some overstatements or “fake green claims” in the past few years is an understatement.

Not so long ago, in their efforts to cash in on the green marketing boom, a number of big-name companies, which included the likes of Volkswagen and easyJet, were found guilty of breaking advertising rules by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). easyJet’s claim that its planes emitted 30 per cent fewer emissions per passenger mile than traditional airlines was deemed totally inaccurate.

In the grocery store, labels scream from the shelves, “Certified Organic!” A close-up look and you’ve got to wonder half the time certified by whom?

But it looks like the days of greenwashing might actually be coming to an end.

This year, the Federal Trade Commission is set to publish the first update in 12 years of its “Green Guidelines”. Under those proposed guidelines, “green” or “eco-friendly” claims will have to be linked to specific attributes. (If it is only the packaging that’s recyclable, then the label would have to make it clear: 100 per cent recyclable package.)

And in our own little real estate development bubble, we’ve actually stepped it up quite nicely when it comes to making environmental and sustainable claims.

I have had the good fortune to work with a number of developers who are serious about promoting green development practices. One of our clients, Intracorp, recently earned LEED® Silver status for their 284-unit residential tower, Vista Place, in North Vancouver. And we are currently working with Bucci Developments Ltd. who is working toward Built Green™ Silver certification for their project NEXT, a four-storey residential low-rise in Bridgeland, Calgary.

Gone are the days when a low-flush toilet was enough for someone to say, “Hey, check out our green development.” And it’s about time too. There is an increasingly judgmental consumer waiting for these facts to be backed up, so let’s get real about making honest and meaningful claims when it comes to being green. And let’s make our homes better places to live. We’ll all be better off for it.

Do good things and you will be rewarded.

Kudos to all of those working so hard to make a difference.


David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more





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