SC Johnson's "Greenlist" program under fire
It's commendable for companies to have internal programs designed to reduce their environmental footprints - this helps them work to continuously improve - but they should never imply that their own standards amount to certification by a neutral third party.
SC Johnson recently faced class-action lawsuits about its use of the company's patented "Greenlist" label Windex and Shout. The plaintiffs argued that the Greenlist label scheme misled consumers into believing the famous glass cleaner had undergone for independent testing for environmental soundness -- when in fact, Greenlist is run by SC Johnson itself. This month, SC Johnson chose to settle out of court and agreed to stop using the Greenlist label on Windex, but it's still unclear if Shout will be affected.
Under SC Johnson's Greenlist program, ingredients are ranked on 0-3 scale, with the "safest" ingredients rated "0". Although the Greenlist process itself has received approval from organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, there is no oversight on how SC Johnson applies the program on a per-product basis. Likewise, SC Johnson's criteria are propietary, so it's difficult for consumers to see what specific ingredients are rated.
SC Johnson isn't the first company to tag products as "green" without independent verification. As consumers turn to greener products for their proven health benefits, many firms have started calling their products earth-friendly, even without supporting evidence. This trend has fallen under the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission, which as of last October, is in the process of proposing and passing new regulations. Currently, claims such as "natural", "green", and "earth-friendly" are not regulated.
At Deep Reflection, we never label products as "green" unless they have been certified by trust third parties such as EPA's Design for the Environment, Green Seal, or EcoLogo. Read more about reputable ecolabeling programs and how they work.