Green-washing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Here are some practices that should give the educated consumer pause for thought.
Green by Association
A company slathers itself and its marketing thoroughly in environmental terms and images so that even if its products have no environmental benefits, consumers associate them with positive environmental attributes.
Lack of Definition
Marketing for a product makes an environmental claim that sounds good to the consumer but is too vague or general.
Environmental claims are made by a company, but the company cannot or will not provide evidence to back them up.
The Non Sequitur
A company uses a valid claim about a product as the basis for a further claim that is not warranted, but may on its surface appear to be reasonable.
Forgetting the Life Cycle aka The Red Herring
A company chooses one easily understood aspect of a product's environmental profile to improve and highlight, while ignoring other significant impacts--sometimes out of ignorance; sometimes as an intentional effort to divert attention.
Bait and Switch
A company heavily promotes the environmental attributes of a single product, while selling and manufacturing a bulk of otherwise similar products that lack the same environmental attributes.
Rallying Behind a Lower Standard
A product earns an apparently valid, third-party certification--but the product's manufacturer or trade association had influenced the development of the relevant standard in a way that makes the certification less meaningful than it appears.
A company lobbies against new environmental measures, claiming that they will be too costly. Particularly if it's losing the battle however, it hedges its bets, publicly embracing similar measures--while continuing to resist them behind the scenes.
Either intentionally or inadvertently, a company bends the truth, or simply ignores it.
A couple of interesting links for more information: