Greenwash Alert: CBS Eco-Ads

Environmental Leader reported today that CBS will be giving a stamp of approval, an “EcoAd” visual “digital” leaf on TV commercials, to its ‘eco-friendly’ TV advertisers. The pitch is that every time an advertiser buys an EcoAd package, a portion of the price will fund projects that public bodies have identified as critical yet underfunded.

Another eco-label? Ugh. Aren’t consumers confused enough about eco-labels?

All sounds good, but this begs the question: What are the criteria by which an advertiser earns the right to participate in the ‘Eco-Ad” program? And who’s providing oversight? Apparently, the EcoAd leaf is available to all TV sponsors. And some notorious greenwashers are already on CBS’s list of launch advertisers like ChevySafeway and PG&E.

Apparently it doesn’t matter if a company is an egregious polluter or spends tons of cash lobbying against environmental laws and regulations (two of several greenwash criteria as put forth in the 7 Sins of Greenwash and Greenpeace’s Greenwash Criteria). As long as they buy into the CBS program, they are now ‘environmentally friendly’?

Who gets hurt beside consumers? Real eco-entrepreneurs who cannot afford big ad buys on CBS. Eco-labels that can be bought for the price of a TV ad threaten to further erode consumer confidence and diminish the value of legitimate environmental practices.

I’m all for funneling money to environmental projects and giving companies that do so credit.  But, CBS needs to have criteria for who participates in their Eco-Ad program or it just more greenwash.

A promo for the seal aired on the CBS television network yesterday, and can be seen at http://ecoad.cbs.com.

Photo: davidgljay at flickr.com

About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .
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