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Greenwashing is good.

Hunter Lovins said that? Hunter Lovins, as in Natural Capitalist Solutions Lovins?

Yes. And she also said this.

Via marketplace.org:

Greenwashing is a Gateway Drug

[O]nce you hold yourself up as ‘green(er)’, increased scrutiny follows. Plus, no one likes to be a hypocrite. Once you say you’re doing it, there’s a tendency to start doing it. In GE’s case, Lovins points out that once GE saw their ‘eco’ products had twice the sales volume of the regular products, “all of a sudden a company without a green bone in its body has one–attached to its wallet.”

Lying as a specific approach? Encouraging superficial actions? Took me a minute to come around. But then I got it.

You don’t throw a non-dancer into the swing of things. You dance with them a little bit at the edge. Let them see how good is.

Get their feet moving. Confidence up.

Before they know it, their friends are watching. Maybe admiringly.

And suddenly they’re dancing. Next thing you know they’ve enrolled in a tango class.

They’re hooked but good.

Classic case of fake it till you make it.

This came to mind when I read that a majority of Fortune 500 companies reported on their sustainability programs, actions and results in 2011. More than doubled from 2010.

Via triplepundit.com:

Record Number of U.S. Companies Issuing Sustainability Reports

G&A Institute states that 53 percent of the 500 companies indexed by Standard and Poor’s issued sustainability reports in 2011, a drastic increase from 2010, when only around 19 percent of the companies reported.

Moreover, this report found that companies that issued sustainability reports enjoyed higher financial returns than their non-reporting competitors.

Does this mean that all these companies have good sustainability metrics? Is there a healthy amount of greenwashing going on? Do the numbers lack context? Are they disconnected from the company’s material pursuits?

Sure. But who cares. They’re in it.

For those who are already on the people-planet-profits bandwagon, these numbers show momentum.

For those new to the party, still mired in short-term shareholder value thinking, this shows a business case.

So I’m seeing the wisdom of bringing everyone to the sustainability conversation. Most of all the skeptics, wallflowers, and foot starers.

Hear that music?

Let’s dance.

Change is hard. Unless you make it easy.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has issued revised, updated “Green Guides” to help U.S. businesses ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive.

In other words, to avoid green-washing.

Via FTC.gov:

FTC Issues Revised “Green Guides”

Will Help Marketers Avoid Making Misleading Environmental Claims

These guides provide sensible, practical, middle-of-the-road direction for businesses.

Helping to make the right (and legal) way simple to understand is a triple win for businesses, consumers, and the planet.

Customers don’t believe green claims as facts without proof, if a new survey has it right.

Can’t really say I blame them, what with rampant greenwashing that inflates, misleads or otherwise tricks customers into believing a product is greener than it really is.

Via Environmentalleader.com:

Consumers Don’t Trust Green Product Claims, Survey Says

Eight in ten Americans don’t believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and only 44 percent trust companies’ green claims, according to research by Cone Communications.

This skepticism may affect sales. In fact, as many as 77 percent would be willing to boycott if misled, according to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker.

So what’s an eager green marketer to do?

It seems paradoxical but one of the best ways to succeed in the green marketplace is to side-step the Green message altogether. This tactic has worked for the Method brand. which wins by being better, not greener.  Green is the incidental benefit.

If you want to go cammo-green, here’s how:

Promote value over virtue: better health, superior performance, good taste, cost-effectiveness, durability, lower operating costs, and status.

Play to the benefits that your customers already know and trust.

They’ll thank you for a stealthily greener, safer, cleaner product or service with their repeat business. Even if you don’t call it green.