Get Smart About ‘Green’ Businesses

Reader Contribution by David Glenn
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Most of us can agree that taking care of the planet and becoming energy efficient are important practices, but when it comes to supporting green businesses, we tend to be led on by greenwashing marketing materials and our own biases. As consumers we tend to automatically assume large businesses are greedy and not environmentally friendly, but think every small brand with a green label is. The reality is that many companies that claim to be green really aren’t, and that some large businesses are actually on the forefront when it comes to sustainability practices.

If you think about it, it is actually the large businesses that can make the biggest difference when it comes to helping the environment, as they are huge consumers of energy and can have a much bigger impact than a small business owner could.

Google, for example, has committed to reducing its environmental impact by purchasing carbon offsets and investing in alternative energy, such as a $200 million wind farm in Texas. Unilever, owner of brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, has set sustainability goals in everything from water and waste, to health and nutrition. Vivint has made strides in the solar industry by reducing energy expenditures. And Sprint combats one of the fastest growing forms of waste in America with its mobile phone buyback program by accepting any phone regardless of its condition or the provider it originally came from.

So how can we ensure that we are supporting companies that actually have green practices, so we aren’t tricked by marketing ploys or our own prejudices?

First, review the company’s policy as it is stated on the web site. Most businesses will post whatever green initiatives they have in order to get press and attention for their efforts. Look critically at the information that is posted. The more detailed the information, the more likely the initiative is real and not just a ploy. Look for specifics, such as measured reductions in energy consumption or contributions made to alternative energy.

Next, look at third party sources to confirm what the company is saying about itself. Check to see if the company has received any awards or recognitions for their green efforts from the media or sustainability organizations. Affiliations or certifications from green organizations are another good indicator to look for.

For a recommendation off of the company’s website, check a rating site, such as Climate Counts, which creates a scorecard on companies’ sustainability practices. One final thing you can do to research a company is to look into specific criteria for an environmentally-friendly company, such as using an efficient warehouse line with automatic labeling systems, or disposing of waste in a safe manner.

By taking the time to do your research, you will gain a better idea of which companies are actually working to preserve the planet and which are using the green movement for their own marketing efforts. Hopefully, as you gain a better understanding you will be able to support green business practices.

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