Greenwashing: The 95-5 Rule

Critics of big business marketing have long talked as if deception and abuse are the exceptions rather than the rule in the discipline of corporate sales-engineering. The truth, of course, is precisely the opposite, if you bother to study the corporate marketing process as a whole.

One interesting and important case of this unwitting excuse-making by critics is the continuing discussion of “greenwashing.” Most who discuss this problem continue to treat it as if it is somehow merely a cancer on the body of big business salesmanship. In reality, as any half-hour glance at television in the USA shows, “green” marketing claims are now the norm.

That’s simply logical. Marketers are constantly looking for new manipulation tactics, and race one another to invent and expand them.

What is the general quality of all the now-normal “green” marketing? For that, listen to a true exception — a publicly honest marketing practitioner. Quoted in this week’s Advertising Age is Steven Addis, CEO of branding consultantcy Addis Creson:

This month I’ve definitely seen a lot of companies that I never would have associated with green popping up. Companies are saying, ‘We need something to green ourselves up, so let’s sponsor Earth Day.’ It’s really now in this hype curve.

Addis says he has developed a general rule-of-thumb about the nature of the greenwashing problem. It’s worth quoting:

I call it the 95-5 rule. Five percent of somebody’s business is green, but 95% of their PR is green.


And another (click on “carbon neutral” button).

%d bloggers like this: