Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is Greenwashing Illegal in Arkansas?

“Greenwashing” is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”  Consider a disposable plastic water bottle which I have seen for sale at convenience stores throughout Little Rock.  The label reads something like, “This bottle contains 30% less plastic.”  Less plastic than what?  A nuclear reactor?  A glass bottle?  And, more importantly, does it contain 30% more plastic than it needs too?

This leads to the subject of this blog: is greenwashing illegal in Arkansas?

The answer, at least in some instances, is yes.

Here’s one reason why:

The Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits a wide range sneaky, underhanded, and fraudulent behavior, including “knowingly making a false representation as to the characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, alterations, source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services or as to whether goods are original or new or of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model” and the use of “any deception, fraud, or false pretense” in connection with the sale or advertisement of any goods or services.

This, of course, is a fair description of greenwashing, reduced to its essence: a claim that a product or service is “green,” when, in fact it is not.

Thus, instances of greenwashing, if they are egregious enough and cause consumers monentary damage, will violate the ADTPA.  And violators should definitely beware: the Act provides for both civil and criminal liability, as well as for injunctive relief.

In future posts, I’ll examine some specific types of greenwashing, and some specific claims, against the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as some of the difficulties with seeking relief and proving a case under the ADTPA.  Stay tuned.

(Department of credit where credit is due: my definition of greenwashing is taken from one of several excellent websites hosted by environmental marketing group TerraChoice, The Sins of Greenwashing, found online at 

(Department of citation: the sections of the ADTPA quoted above can be found at sections 4-88-107(a)(1) and 4-88-108(1) of the Arkansas Code.)

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