Forest certification remains a key weapon in the fight to save forests

May 25, 2018 by  
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Some estimates suggest that up to 30 percent of all timber traded globally may be illegally harvested.

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Forest certification remains a key weapon in the fight to save forests

Here’s how to move LEED forward on climate change

May 25, 2018 by  
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The green building rating system must go further.

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Here’s how to move LEED forward on climate change

How sustainability messages break through with busy shoppers

May 24, 2018 by  
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Barrages of logos and labels are often overlooked by consumers, but here’s how to get around that.

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How sustainability messages break through with busy shoppers

Is LEED Greenwash?

August 19, 2011 by  
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According to Environmental Leader yesterday the U.S. District Court in New York City dismissed a lawsuit charging the U.S. Green Building Council with false advertising over its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. This is such an interesting case because it speaks to the heart of the perennial question: What is greenwash? Generally, greenwash applies when the following can be said about a company or organization’s green claims: No meaningful or verifiable criteria Not consistent, clear or transparent Not independent or protected from conflict of interest Does not provide opportunities for public comment LEED seems clear on all the above counts.  But, it really comes down to whether LEED allows building owners to exaggerate their environmental achievements. As an outspoken opponent of greenwash, I have struggled with LEED for some time. LEED is a certification process that provides benchmarks rather than a set of standards. Developers and building owners pick and choose from a laundry list of greening strategies to reach a green building design that aggregates green standards. As a result, it is true that LEED certification can actually be achieved even in the complete absence of, for example, important energy efficiencies. This loophole remains a major criticism of the LEED program. Additionally, separate LEED ratings systems exist for different building types, so the benchmarks vary depending on your building use and whether you are building from scratch or renovating an existing space. And, while I agree with the U.S. District Court in New York City, that LEED does not qualify for greenwash, for small projects and therefore small businesses, it is often not feasible (mostly because of the expense and entrenched monitoring requirements) to apply for LEED certification.  And, because only large budgets can accommodate the certification process, I do believe this makes LEED unfair. But, truth be told, even if a building cannot afford to follow individual LEED criteria, LEED raises the bar for us all and provides motivation to achieve the intent of greening — even without the certification itself. For that LEED is a wonderful tool. LEED’s approach is holistic—and not just eye candy—and therefore legitimate.  In the end, I believe that LEED promotes sustainable building practices and is not about promoting exaggerated environmental achievements.

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Is LEED Greenwash?

SC Johnson Withdraws “Greenlist” Logo- Lessons in Greenwashing

July 12, 2011 by  
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SC Johnson will stop using the “Greenlistâ„¢” logo in its current form on Windex® products. The company has reached an agreement on two lawsuits regarding use of its logo and the parties have agreed to an undisclosed settlement. The Greenlistâ„¢ logo was intended to signify that the Windex® products had achieved the highest internal ratings according to the company’s patented Greenlistâ„¢ process. The lawsuit resulted as plaintiffs opined that Greenlistâ„¢ was an internally developed process rather than that of a third-party and that the logo implied the products included environmentally friendly ingredients. What was the issue with the label? The label depicts a drawing of two leaves and a stem. On the reverse side of the label, which is read through the back of the Windex bottle, the text says-“Greenlistâ„¢ is a rating system that promotes the use of environmentally responsible ingredients. For additional information, visit www.scjohnson.com”. The suits were brought in federal court by Mr. Wayne Koh in California and by Mr. Howard Petlack in Wisconsin in March 2009. SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson tries to clear the air- “We decided to settle for two reasons. First, while we believed we had a strong legal case, in retrospect we could have been more transparent about what the logo signified , and second, and very importantly, Greenlistâ„¢ is such a fundamentally sound and excellent process we use to green our products, that we didn’t want consumers to be confused about it due to a logo on one product.” Correct. Without clear communication, internal audits or certifications can amount to greenwashing claims and ruin reputation . Apparently, the company now understand this, evident from this clear line of explanation from the CEO, and is making amends by withdrawing the logo. Kelly M. Semrau, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Affairs, Communication and Sustainability at SC Johnson noted, “While companies always try to ensure labels are clear and understandable, different interpretations can arise. We want to simply learn from the experience and move on.” SC Johnson will continue to use  Greenlistâ„¢ in its product development as it continues to strive for better cleaning ingredients. According to the SC Johnson’s press release , SC Johnson’s Greenlistâ„¢ process is an internally developed environmental classification system used to help green the company’s chemistry. It has received numerous external recognitions, including the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2006. In the Greenlistâ„¢ process, ingredients are rated according to their impact on the environment and human health. Using this information, company scientists work to select ingredients with “Better” or “Best” ratings when developing new products. When reformulating existing products, they must contain ingredients with equal or better ratings than the original formula. At the end of the day, the goal is to annually increase the proportion of ingredients in SC Johnson products that have the least impact on the environment and human health. Since the process was created in 2001, Greenlistâ„¢ has helped make numerous advances including reformulating cleaning products to cut nearly 48 million pounds of VOCs from SC Johnson products in the last five years alone. Additionally this internal audit system also laid the groundwork for SC Johnson’s ingredient communication program, launched in 2009. All good things. Third-party certifications and audits are valuable in adding credibility but pasting your own “company checklist” as an approval stamp, however stringent and qualified, can very easily nullify the effectiveness of the program. But all seems to be going well with SC Johnson, as they have learned from this episode, removed the logo, settled the complaint and want to continue their commitment to sustainability and transparency. Read more posts on greenwashing and how to avoid it on Ecopreneurist

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SC Johnson Withdraws “Greenlist” Logo- Lessons in Greenwashing

Clean & Green or Dirty Business? 5 Corporate Greenwashing Tricks to Watch Out For

June 22, 2011 by  
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{From the editor: This guest post by Jack Simms highlights greenwashing claims that every consumer should be aware of. Consumers have immense power and making knowledgeable decisions when buying green products will go a long way in lowering our environmental impact and footprint} There are two sides to every story. Shell says it can drill offshore in remote Alaskan waters safely because it has a containment program that is better than BP’s – while Greenpeace points out that a bad spill in the Arctic would endanger polar bear winter birthing grounds.

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Clean & Green or Dirty Business? 5 Corporate Greenwashing Tricks to Watch Out For

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