Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Greenwashing

By Archive, May 22, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Archive

Green products are a big deal and getting bigger, but how big can they get and still be green? While more companies are starting to talk the talk, very few are actually doing the walk. Greenwashing, the practice of misleading consumers about the environmental benefits of a particular product or service, is a growing problem.

So how do you know what’s fact or fiction when it comes to green claims? You can start with this recent Boston Globe article that discusses how some companies are exploiting the green market by greenwashing their products. The Six Sins of Greenwashing site will familiarize you with common methods used by companies that are less than forthcoming about what they’re trying to sell you. Finally, you can heighten your green awareness in the marketplace by checking out the Greenwashing Index, a forum that evaluates the greenness of various marketing campaigns.

If you know of other sources for verifying green claims, or if you have questions or concerns about greenwashing in general, please share them with us.

Category: Green Action

 

19 Comments

Comments

Dominic says ...
Great post. I have frequented the Greenwashing Index site for a few months now and find it to be an excelent community resource for evaluating green marketing claims. Your recent initiative of removing plastic bags and encouraging reusable grocery bags was definitely an example of positive green marketing, however has the company examined practices that could be labeled as Greenwashing? What measures do you guys put in place to limit this? Just curious...
05/23/2008 10:28:07 AM CDT
Sandra says ...
I saw a piece on the news about Whole Foods importing organic greens and vegetables from China....I just cannot understand how 1.) anything produced in China could be organic and 2.) how importing vegetables from the other side of the world could be more sustainable than just growing them in North America. It's very troubling to learn that even those with the best intentions can't really commit to the only environment we have.
05/27/2008 3:57:41 PM CDT
Sherry says ...
China, are you all nuts. Our Tulsa store is terrible. Maybe the management just doesn't get the whole concept of organic and natural food, I don't know. You say you buy from local farms, how is CHINA local? Wild oats was so much better, I miss it a lot more everytime I come into Whole foods. The fruit is inferior to even Food Piramids organic fruit. You all are suppose to be the experts. I think you need to go back and understand supply and demand. You took out a lot of the products we came to love at Wild oats and the fruit is so much worse, you have lost a lot of customers, just people I know. Get it together or this store won't make it. I work too hard for my money to buy something at Whole foods that is inferior to the the store just down the street. The atmospher is much worse than Wild Oats was. It doesn't feel as clean or happy a store. Thanks for taking away our best store in town. We miss Wild Oats alot.
06/05/2008 8:58:31 AM CDT
Ginger says ...
It kind of takes the "organic" out of the food if it was produced in China, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Sounds like we are paying a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing. As a nation are we that lazy that we can't grow and wash our own vegetables for our own personal use. It is a sad comentary on our lives today.
06/05/2008 1:16:14 PM CDT
Wanda says ...
I know all to much about greenwashing and find it everywhere - but it saddens me to find it in your store... I was there just yesterday and had a hard time finding hand soap that did not have SLS and a number of other chemicals... What is Whole Foods doing to keep these items out of health food stores?
06/05/2008 1:30:13 PM CDT
dicksonj says ...
Hi Wanda - I don't consider SLS to be greenwashing; we actually look really closely at the ingredients we consider acceptable in our products. We’re definitely aware of the concerns about SLS, but after careful research we still consider acceptable in our body care products. Here’s some more information as to why: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/wholebody/bodycare/sls.html . We have some of the highest standards in the industry for personal care products. For decades, we’ve carefully reviewed the ingredients that we consider acceptable in our products, allowing only ingredients that our standards team deems acceptable. We recently took this work a step further when we launched our new Premium body care standards. Products that bear the Premium Body Care seal represent a higher standard; we created this standard to raise the bar for natural body care. You can read more about this new standard (which disallows SLS, among many other ingredients) here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/wholebody/pbc/index.html
06/05/2008 1:31:58 PM CDT
Elle says ...
There is a T-shirt being sold at whole foods that might qualify as a "green-wash": It promotes bio-fuels. The latest that I've heard on bio-fuels is that they emit more greenhouse gases than petroleum-based fuels. Their use is also wreaking havoc on the food supply. So this shirt company is trying to make money off people's desire to be eco-conscious, without researching whether this is indeed a worthy bio-cause. The ONLY reason for bio-fuels would be to reduce our dependence on the middle east; there are better ways to do that.
06/05/2008 3:55:14 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
I asked recently where the Whole Foods re-usable bags at my nearby store were produced. Answer: China (of course). Unfortunately it seems there is a choice to make between offering an affordable green product that will encourage consumers to reduce waste and offering a truly green product that encourages fair labor practices as well as reducing the carbon emissions required to ship the bags from overseas.
06/05/2008 4:03:39 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
Elizabeth, you are absolutely right in that there are tradeoffs in just about every conscious decision businesses and individuals make. We do weigh our decisions carefully and make the best ones that we can. On the re-useable bags, we knew that we wanted an inexpensive option so more of our customers would choose to reuse. And we wanted a bag that was made from recycled plastic bottles – closing the recycling loop in two ways. The only vendor we found is in China. We have the vendor’s operations audited by a third party company who verifies that their environmental and social responsibility practices – including fair labor – meet our high standards. You can read more on our website about the <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/issues/organic/globalorganics.html " rel="nofollow">specific audits and steps we take</a>. As for the shipping miles, we hear you and we would source this product closer if it was possible. That said, transportation via ship is one of the lowest carbon methods available. We’ll keep looking for ways to do things better. You might want to check out some of the other bags our stores offer. Some of our regions take their large sign banners and recycle them into bags and those are very locally made! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
06/05/2008 5:23:09 PM CDT
Nancy Michelli says ...
I shop at Whole Foods almost exclusively but there are a few grand disappointments. There are many personal products that have chemical fragrance in them and these chemicals are extremnely toxic and harmful to people, pets and the environment. And to make things worse they recently have added Method and another that I can't remember the name of that have chemnical fragrances included. Now just like going to Luckys, Target, Wal Mart or some other clueless store we have to avoid the cleaner aisle at Whole Foods. It stinks and it's toxic!
06/05/2008 9:22:03 PM CDT
Kyla McAuliffe says ...
I am new to the whole "green" thing. However - I am learning! It is very confusing for someone just starting out, and I am still working on my awareness. I would really love it if Whole Foods would make a sign in their store that indicates the meanings of food origins - for example, this may be obvious to most, but I assumed that all foods in your store were organic. I did not realize the difference b/w conventional and organic, and did not realize that you would carry genetically modified foods in your store. For someone just starting out who might not think to ask...it would be helpful for information for us "newbies". Also, I appreciate your responses to some of the comments above...please consider replying to the ones you haven't as I'm now concerned and interested in your responses to those as well. Thanks!
06/06/2008 8:50:07 AM CDT
Dana says ...
In Colorado the people referred to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck. Now that I can barely afford to put gas in my car, when the new store opens in Reno, I doubt that I will be able to afford to shop there much. Regarding the "organic" subject. In my travels through Mexico I was astounded to discover that the organic crops abutted the non-organic crops - literally. I actually watched as the crop duster sprayed the non-organic crops while the organic ones were inevitable receipients of "the magic dust!" It forever changed my opinion of organic marketing. We need to grow more of our own foods locally in America. People need to learn how to eat seasonally, which would eleminate the need to transport produce thousands of miles. AND we need to stop doing business with CHINA! It would be nice too if people learned how to grow some of their own foods.
06/06/2008 10:20:52 AM CDT
Roy says ...
The united nations has sighted the carbon emmissions produced from the production of animal products for food, as the number 2 or 3 largest contributor to global warming. While not using plastic bags, and recyling are all good steps they pale in comparison to reducing the amount of animal product we consume/sell/produce for food. While I understand why Whole Foods sells organic versions of meat and dairy products, I question how unbalanced you are with regard to featuring and promoting these animal products in your stores verses the small amount of meat and dairy alternatives (with the exception of soy milk). This unbalance is, in itself, greenwashing!
06/06/2008 10:39:07 AM CDT
Juanita says ...
When we wash our organic vegetables and fruits in tap water we are no longer eating organic. The chlorine in the tap water is absorbed into the fruits and vegetables. Take a look at my website and learn how you can wash your greens and fruits and still eat organic.
06/06/2008 2:10:29 PM CDT
Annette says ...
Funny, Whole Check...It is interesting I find the opposite that if I have to stop at a Kroger, Spouts or Tom Thumb my dollar does not go near as far as it does at my local Whole Foods. I swear I go into sticker shock. The only time my food bill is out of line is when I hit the pre packaged foods or the bakery...stuff I should not be noshing on anyway. Ok but produce from China that makes me ill, big no-no. I will be watching for this now...must admit we try to get as much "local" and in season as possible does not allows work but we try.
06/07/2008 2:46:23 PM CDT
April says ...
We also call Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck" here in Michigan. I discovered that, to eat healthiest (i.e., shop at Whole Foods), is impossible for me, so I just gave up. There really needs to be a store that is TRULY devoted to only a small amount of select foods and products. There probably is, but only the super-rich know about it and shop there. :(
06/11/2008 7:19:49 AM CDT
kanel says ...
Regarding the "greenwashing" issue, the Federal Trade Commission has a published list of "Green Guides" that are designed to protect consumers from greenwashing claims. They can be found at this link: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/grnrule/guides980427.htm These guides were last reviewed in 1998 and are currently under review by the Commission. There have been many new environmental claims that have come along since the guides were last reviewed, such as "carbon neutral", "renewable", and "sustainable", to name just a few, so the current review will attempt to create criteria for measuring and "vetting" such claims. As a Whole Foods Market team member whose job includes trying to verify "green" claims with which we are presented, I am always grateful when our customers share their experience, feedback, and information to help us do the best job we can in this regard!
06/12/2008 11:31:15 AM CDT
revolted says ...
Apply for one of the $10million loans that wholefoods has availible ans start a farm if you are so concerned about local supply you fool! Stop talking and start doing!!!!!
06/12/2008 11:38:54 AM CDT
Tina says ...
Wow-you all are some angry people! I do agree that Whole Foods is very expensive and I am too disappointed that Whole Foods carries a wide variety of health and body products with SLS and parabens. I wish there was a store that contained everything local, in season, and natural body products. It would even be better if there could be a frozen section of veggies and fruits that were locally grown and frozen by true organic-local farmers. Being "green' is hard, but it is impossible to avoid everything that is bad unless you want to live in a bubble. Just remember...the people on this site are obviously trying, so quit getting so angry at one another.
07/22/2008 10:38:12 AM CDT