Consumers are a tough lot. They can either make or break the reputation of a product and they tend to set the trend for manufacturers to follow (in most part). But when it comes to their environmental rights, most consumers forget the detail.
We are faced with endless advertising everyday - from newsprint, to television, social media and word-of-mouth. We are perhaps the most enlightened generation, but also the most gullible when it comes to environmental claims and statements by advertisers.
Claiming that a rpoduct is 'environmentally friendly', 'responsible', 'green' or other similar terminology has become the fastest way for manufacturers and service providers to access the relatively lucrative environmentally aware consumer market. Because these terms mean different things to different people, we all tend to either accept them unquestionably, or our 'green radar' is activated.
Those that tend to accept unquestionably create all sorts of problems for the less gullible amongst us. By simply accepting what advertisers and manufacturers have to say about the 'environmental' suitability of their products without question, we are in fact aiding and abbeting the 'greenwash' industry. How can a car truly be 'green' - in spite of the jargon and pretty pictures we see? Even the latest generation of battery-powered vehicles have massive impacts on the environment, so how can we believe they are 'green'? The answer is simple.... they aren't! But we fall for it and thereby add to the greenwash industry.
In South Africa, a leading and respected retail group promotes and markets their 'Earth Friendly' range of household cleaners and polishes in full knowledge of the fact that they are not! Another promotes their 'green' range in spite of the fact that they contain EDTA, a relatively harmful but eco-unfriendly acid used in the chemical industry. Neither of these two retailers products are manufactured in an ISO14001 accredited facility,and neither has an ecolabel - but that hasn't stopped them jumping into the fray.
Unless we start using our 'green' radar - and start challenging our suppliers, retailers and manufaturers on their environmental claims now, future generations will rightly be able to say 'what were you thinking'. You have rights - the right to a clean environment and the right to health and security, but unless you exercise these when you buy products and commodities, you may as well not have them at all.
So the next time you see an advert for something 'green', ask some relatively simple questions before you buy. In that way we can make a difference today and force manufacturers and the advertising industry to 'get with the programme'.