Brits on the Lookout for Greenwashing

The ad that got Shell in trouble

British consumers are mad, and they aren't going to take it anymore. In its annual report, the advertising watchdog organization Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) recorded more than four times as many complaints against corporations for greenwashing in 2007 as in the previous year. "The ASA has already censured several high-profile companies including Suzuki, Shell, Ryanair and Toyota for the practice of 'greenwash' -- where companies are found to have misled consumers on their environmental practices as a business or of the particular benefits of a product or service." The Shell ad that caused concern featured a graphic of a refinery that spewed flowers from its smokestacks. The communications firm Futerra also released a report, using in part the ASA findings, that found that the auto and energy industries were those most likely to receive complaints. The Futerra agency also published a greenwash guide, with tips on how to spot the tactic in action. The list includes fluffy language, a green product vs. a dirty company, suggestive pictures, and what they call "best in a bad class" as warning signs.