Green is Not a Creative Color

In 2003 when I received my freshly appointed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional status, I was awash with thoughts on how I would change the construction marketing landscape. No longer would the false claims and pseudo greenwashing messages on how to promote and articulate materials standards pass by uncontested. I knew the inner workings, we didn’t need more confusion in the market, we needed someone to tell it like it is, warts and all.

“Not on my watch..”, I smugly told myself (and any client who would listen), “there is a better way to do this; no more leafs or planets in your logos. No longer will we wordsmith Natural or Organics into frankensteined: Nutra-Organ-erific’ness! The new world of Green Messaging 2.0 would be transparent, clean, and verifiable.” I would then push my chair back, confident in the moment, wait for the client to allow the strategy to sink in and push ahead with bold imagery, content and color. “Green be dammed,” I’d say, “that’s the cowards way out, in Green 2.0 our 100% recycled material didn’t need the familiar circling arrows, people would understand what it is and we will back up what we say!”

Flash forward 10 years later, I’m in the same meeting, but now the market is flush with 10 brands all looking for the edge to better promote their own “Natural” solution and lurking in the shadows the NutraOrganerific monster rises again. Only this time, he looks a lot better to the client and worse, even to me. Suddenly we slap a little lipstick (a nice green leaf) on the beast and NuOrganix is born!

So what happened to us? Don’t we care anymore? Have we become greenwashed to the point that each new product we inherently believe their claims to be somewhat true, whatever the cheesy name? Or do we believe all claims to be slightly misleading – or only apply to the narrowest scope – and therefore accept this type of positioning as just part of our culture?

A couple of things have changed since 2003; in 2004 the ISO released the 14004 standards which at least technically addressed the communication standards for environmental claims (the new ISO 14001 revision is scheduled for release in 2015) and in 2010 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) refined the “Green Guides” and continues to upgrade the acceptable terms of environmental marketing today. So does that mean we believe them? The truth, likely, is always somewhere in the middle but for me at least, I no longer feel that rampant greenwashing goes unpunished.

So, do I believe the hardline transparency of Green 2.0 messaging has given way to the softer mix of green tones and innocuous logos of today. Hard to say, but if you are in need of a name for a naturally organic product, give me a call, I’ve got a great one for you…

Jason Warnock



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