Everybody seems to be going green, but some are doing it better than others.
Companies that rush into sustainable practices without fully researching them, or ones that know they haven’t quite got it but are pushing it anyway, are in danger of the repercussions of ‘green-washing.’
“When you make claims that don’t really stand up or that are shallow, you’re not really making a difference,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association. “One thing we know is that consumers don’t put up with that. Once they know you’re green-washing, you’re out.”
Means pinpointed social networking sites as a main mode of communication for eco-savvy consumers who can pick out a green-washer.
“You don’t have to look at the government as the No. 1 enforcer,” Means said. “Consumers will watch you.”
Being in a hurry to jump on the sustainability bandwagon, and acting without thinking through it, can be the downfall of some sustainability initiatives.
“I’m a consumer as well, and sometimes I look skeptically at what’s coming out from companies that have maybe rushed into having a sustainability message,” said Mark Nicholson, vice president of business development for Geneva, N.Y.-based Red Jacket Orchards.
Gregory Sagan, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Modern Mushroom Farms Inc., Avondale, Pa., said his company continues to prepare for sustainability as a movement that is here to stay.
“We believe that sustainability is here to stay,” Sagan said. “It is a way of life. So far, all of the initiatives continue to expand and build upon themselves.”
Sagan couldn’t pinpoint a specific practice that is becoming permanent, but said that sustainability is the future.
“It is about balancing environmental factors with economic viability,” Sagan said. “That will mean different things to each company and each person.”
"It's easy to get into this black-and-white thing that if it's local it's more sustainable, but that's not necessarily the case."
- Kathy Means
To keep clean in the consumers’ eyes, companies need to back up their claims, Means said.
“A lot of it is just documenting,” said Brian Knott, president of Louisville, Ky.-based Grow Farms. “A lot are already doing it, they just need to be documenting it and showing what they’re doing.”