April 15th, 2011
CBS Accused of ‘Greenwashing’
The New York Times
Four environmental organizations have complained to the Federal Trade Commission about EcoAd, a new marketing program from the CBS Corporation, because, they charged, it will mislead and confuse consumers.
CBS, in a lengthy statement, denied the complaints.
The dispute is indicative of the contentious discussions around what is called “greenwashing,” which have increased as more companies become involved in cause marketing. Greenwashing refers to a false or inaccurate suggestion that products, brands or corporate policies are ecologically conscious.
The EcoAd program, introduced in January, invites marketers to buy ads in various CBS media outlets — among them television, outdoor and online — that include logos of green leaves between the words “eco” and “ad.”
CBS promises to donate a portion of the revenue from ads in the EcoAd program to environmental and clean-energy projects in local communities. The program was developed by EcoMedia, which CBS acquired last May.
The organizations complain in a letter to the F.T.C. that the appearance of the logo implies to consumers that the advertisers are themselves environmentally conscious and committed to operating in a “green” manner when CBS does nothing to ascertain whether that is the case.
The logo “clearly suggests to viewers that the products or services advertised provide environmental benefits,” the organizations wrote in their letter to the commission, “when there may be no basis for such a claim.”
“And there is no explanation of the meaning of the EcoAd green leaf symbol accompanying the ads,” they wrote.
The organizations making the complaint are the Center for Environmental Health, Ecopreneurist, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network.