Volume 9, Issue 9 - September 2008


If You Think You’re
“Green,” Read On

Our company has an environmental policy, but would I characterize us as a green company? I don’t know that I’d make that leap. My boss might disagree with that statement, but here’s why I make it: because it depends on what the definition of green is. What does green really mean? I tell people that we are committed to the environment (for some of the things we do, visit www.dwmmag.com). I also tell them that I serve as the company’s sustainability officer, which means the company and I strive constantly to strengthen that commitment by putting green principles into place and advancing them through a process that continues to evolve.

If you’re promoting your company or your products as being green in any way you absolutely must read the feature article on page 32. It will tell you why you can’t throw words around like recycled content or PVC-free without having hard facts to back up these claims. Maybe your products truly are green. But until there is widespread acceptance of a definition of what green really means, focus on the concrete things you do to be environmentally responsible.

We in the industry have become accustomed to a lot of “green speak,” but do we really know what these words mean? If we don’t, does the consumer? Here’s an example. While at Wal-Mart the other day waiting for my husband, I was standing by the wood rocking chairs and happened to see the FSC logo, along with the statement that the wood from the chair comes from well-managed forests. Trying to put myself into the shoes of a regular consumer (one that doesn’t write about these issues), I tried to imagine what he would think upon reading that small label. If a consumer really wants to know what makes up a well managed forest he can go to the FSC’s website to find out more, but how many ever do?

Consumers can get confused about various issues related to green products. Here’s another example of something that can confuse consumers though its intent is to help them identify a green structure: the different green building rating systems in existence such as LEED for Homes and the similar system administered by the National Association of Home Builders. Breaking down those programs isn’t the easiest of tasks—even for professionals like us.

All of this made me realize that when talking about green products, try to make your message as clear as possible. You may think you’re already doing so, but take a minute and examine your intent again— whether it is a product, marketing material or other message.

Green is a little word, but explaining it and defining it without exploitation is not an easy task.


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