Should Third Parties Counter Greenwashing?

Still Water Life

I attended a green social media marketing panel last night in Washington, DC that included Sacha Cohen, Jennifer Kaplan, Diane MacEachern, Lynn Miller, Adam Shake and moderator Kate Sheppard. The panelists got bogged down in tools, but eventually transitioned to how to positively create more movement on green behavioral change and technology adoption. At the heart of the matter is the many greenwashing issues, as well as distrust of bloggers who blindly recommend initiatives.

One panelist (and forgive me because I was in the back) posed the concept of using third party validators to formally counter greenwashing initiatives. The use of trustworthy third parties will counter the distrust of green oil salesmen, so to speak. Ironically, the FTC has a similar idea in mind.

I like this as it’s clear that many people see green as an opportunity to cash in. Most simply go green for the value and increasingly smart business sense that goes with sustainability. Some have clearly taken that opportunity and stretched the ethical norm to achieve their goals. I believe protecting consumers and good businesses from the few bad apples is something that will hasten adoption.

My fear with this whole third party validation model is putting too much trust in one basket. I prefer to see an organization like Consumer Reports test and validate greenness than an official green body or worse, the government. This may be a role for an industry association, too. I think a couple of trustworthy third parties would be great.

The worse thing that could happen is flushing more tax dollars down the drain on another red herring… I wonder whether the FTC is the right body or if it should be the EPA, and its Energy Star programs. One hand doesn’t use the other, clearly.

Perhaps I am jaded after living in DC for 18 years. What are your thoughts on third parties countering green washing.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.