Online: A Way to Rate Green Claims

A new website that offers consumers the opportunity to evaluate advertisers' environmental claims has debuted just as the Federal Trade Commission begins a series of public workshops addressing the rising industry of carbon offsets and related advertising.

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A new website that offers consumers the opportunity to evaluate advertisers' environmental claims has debuted just as the Federal Trade Commission begins a series of public workshops addressing the rising industry of carbon offsets and related advertising.

The website—www.greenwashingindex.com—was created through a partnership by EnviroMedia Social Marketing and the advertising faculty of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. The site invites consumers to post advertisements and then offer their own assessments of the credibility of the message. On its first day, several commercials were posted, including two from BP and one touting the Lexus Hybrid.

One BP commercial features a farmer (or an actor who plays one on TV) marveling at his ability to turn crops into ethanol that would fuel his equipment. The ad then highlights the fact that ethanol could lower greenhouse gas emissions. The person who posted the ad noted that BP was "hedging" by using the word "could." On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being a "good ad" and 5 being "total greenwashing," the ad received a grade of 3.

The index was announced at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali last month.

"We've been witnessing a tidal wave of green advertising over the past year," said EnviroMedia President Kevin Tuerff. "It's our hope the Greenwashing Index will help eradicate bad environmental marketing claims and, at the same time, shed a positive light on companies making measurable reductions in carbon emissions related to climate change."

—Bret Schulte