California-based TerraChoice advocates meticulous ethical standards in environmental marketing. While applauding the emergence of “green products” in the market today, it warns against deception. They articulate the Seven Sins of Green-washing:
- The Sin of the Hidden Trade Off occurs when a product or service is marketed as being green within a very narrow definitive framework, without regard to damaging by-products that might be associated with its creation.
- The Sin of No Proof is a claim to green that cannot be substantiated by third party certification or by easily accessible supportive information.
- The Sin of Vagueness involves a claim that is defined in broad or ambiguous terms such that it may be misunderstood by the consumer.
- The Sin of Worshipping False Labels is committed when a product, either through words or images, gives the impression of an objective green endorsement, when no such endorsement exists.
- The Sin of Irrelevance occurs when a claim, while true, is either unimportant or unhelpful to the consumer when making choices that support environmental stewardship.
- The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils exists when a claim may be true within a product category, but it ignores the broader context – for example, “organic cigarettes.”
- The Sin of Fibbing aptly describes claims that are simply false.