As the debate about the carbon benefits of generating electricity in Europe from wood pellets manufactured in the southern United States continues, a new Forest2Market report shows that growth in demand for forest products (e.g., lumber, paper, packaging and wood pellets) has led to greater forest productivity and a significant increase in the amount of forest inventory available for storing carbon. The report, Historical Perspective on the Relationship between Demand and Forest Productivity in the US South, analyzes US Forest Service data and other scientific research to understand the relationship between changes in demand and supply from 1953 to 2015.
In our increasingly environmentally conscious world, it’s common for companies to tout their green initiatives and environmentally friendly practices, and that’s just good business. But all too often, companies claim benefits – like the environmental superiority of “recyclable plastic” packaging or “going green” by switching from paper to electronic communications — as a way to cloak poor environmental performance or mask cost-cutting efforts. With no sound scientific evidence to back them up, these types of claims are textbook greenwashing.
Some of the consequences of greenwashing are obvious. Clearly, unsubstantiated environmental claims mislead consumers, often causing them to take actions they would not otherwise consider. As reported previously by Two Sides North America (TSNA), psychological research has shown that when people see and hear unsubstantiated claims over and over again, they start to believe them as true, and ultimately incorporate them into their decision making. A 2022 TSNA study confirmed this finding. The study showed that among Americans who had repeatedly seen “go green, go paperless” and similar claims from their banks, utility companies and other services providers, 65% were influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements.
Greenwashing claims can also cause reputational harm, not only damaging the credibility of companies that make such claims, but also casting doubt over the valid claims of companies that are contributing to real environmental progress. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides” provide very specific guidance related to environmental claims, stating that “claims must be truthful, not misleading and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.” Unfortunately, this guidance is often ignored.
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