At Clean Agency we lead our clients in the direction of assessment, verification and transparent reporting of environmental impacts based on international standards. Today, consultants in the sustainability space provide the education, software tools and strategy to allow a company to become more aware of their impacts and transparent with their stakeholders. All of this investment provides trust in a corporate brand that they are making fully substantiated environmental claims.
Based on this approach I can’t help but stop and acknowledge blatant cases of greenwashing. This one is from our local chain of grocery stores, Ralph’s which is owned by Kroger Co. Their current paper grocery bag touts three green features:
“Ralphs Caring for the Environment
Ralphs saved enough energy to power over 1,500 houses for a year.
By recycling cardboard Ralphs keep 80,000 tons of waste out of landfills per year.
Ralph’s paper bags are made from 40% recycled material.”
My major concern is with the first point. There is no reference to the scientific evidence behind this claim. How much energy do they use in all of their stores that could be used for powering houses? Where are they, what kind of fuel are they using? What are they doing to save this energy, and what kind of fuel source are they saving?
Also in reference to the last two claims, most, if not all, major grocery chains recycle their corrugate, and most, if not all, paper bags contain at least a certain percentage of recycled paper. It’s just the industry norm, and Ralph’s is making it seem like they’re going out on a limb to protect our planet through these two activities.
The fact that this message is being forced onto their customers through grocery bags concerns me. It’s not just a claim they are making on a green website but in their stores to each customer thousands of times of day.
I have searched the web to find a contact I could follow up with at Kroger’s, but emails from their sustainability people bounced back and there is no phone number.
Vague green claims like these confuse consumers and detract attention from companies who are truly making great strides to improve the sustainability of their operations. If Ralph’s was our client, we would encourage them to hold on green marketing until they have taken serious steps toward improving their impact and have something truly substantive to say.