The 'Invisible Friend'

July 16, 2015

Have you noticed how rare it has become to find an advert for a service or product that does not have some form of environmental endorsement?  Almost every advert you see today - and across the range of consumer goods, makes some degree of environmentally friendly claim in an effort to get your attention.


But the truth behind this is that a study in the United States has shown that almost 95% of claims and 'logo's' are in fact false.  A staggering number of marketers have jumped on this bandwagon, and as I have said in previous blogs, you need to know what you are looking for. 


Self-appointed labels have become known as 'invisible friends' because that is just what they are.  They have been  created by the marketing departments of large manufacturers to encourage you to buy their products - apparently safe in the knowledge that you wouldn't know the difference. In South Africa, there is a generation of products that we take today as environmentally friendly because of this clever marketing ploy, and we continue to use them in spite of their unquestionable impacts on the environment.


For example, the most popular dishwashing liquid cleaners available on our supermarket shelves are almost without exception, based on by-products of the oil industry.  Hydrocarbon is the basis of many of our trusted cleaners, and because they claim to 'use less' or are 'not harmful to the environment', we accept their claims and continue to use them.  On the other hand, a new generation of organic cleaning products has hit the marketplace, and wise shoppers are starting to look for these rather than the old trusted names.


But even here you face a challenge. Did you know - for example, that the in-house Earth Friendly range of cleaning products available from one of South Africa's most respected brands is anything but 'earth friendly'? In response to an enquiry regarding the label they were using - and the claims being made, their spokesperson confirmed that the products were not third-party certified as environmentally responsible (Ecolabelled) and that the manufacturer that supplied the range was not even ISO14001 certified.  The same can be true for any of the other leading house brands that we take for granted because most of them contain highly questionable ingredients that would not meet the basic entry-level labelling requirements for the EU or USA.


From paint manufacturers to producers of disposable nappies, very few have the 'guts' to undergo third-party certification of their products because they know they won't meet an internationally accepted standard of environmental performance.  So, the next best thing is to create their own label and hope that you wouldn't know the difference.  Look for their ecolabel and contact that organisation to verify their claims.  My expectation is that - as was found in the US study, you will probably find that most - if not all are in-house 'invisible friends', meant to distract and confuse!






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