So, will the Good Housekeeping Green Seal help make sense of the eco-label clutter? Yes and no. On the one hand, it seems to be a well-thought-out initiative, done with rigor, responsibility, and a high sense of purpose. The bar seems to be set at a reasonable level: If a product has earned a Good Housekeeping Green Seal, it means something.
But the seal will have limited impact, if only because of its linkage to its magazine advertiser base. (Anyone can have a product evaluated by the Institute for $10,000, but such products aren't allowed to carry the seal unless they first earn the "regular" Good Housekeeping Seal, which inures only to advertisers.) That will be a barrier to all but the largest companies. Indeed, all of the seven products certified to date come from large companies -- six from Clorox, Johnson & Johnson, and SC Johnson (the seventh is from Physicians Formula, a $115 million revenue, Nasdaq-traded company). The big-company limitation will hamstring the seal's ability to gain traction among many green-minded consumers, who may prefer products from any of countless smaller companies.
We here at CVI are huge proponents of independent eco-labels that feature a rigorous process of "policing" the credibility of the New Green Economy by making sure that green products live up to claims of having sustainable production, use and re-use/disposal impacts. Such labels are crucial for building a solid foundation of trust that our greener choices are making a difference -- that they truly help citizens and businesses, through our everyday choices, reduce habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water depletion, toxic pollution, and solid waste generation.
It seems that while Good Housekeeping's new green seal is an important development, we still need something akin to it's famed credibility that is affordable for smaller green businesses. After all, it's not just the already huge companies with new green product lines that need this kind of high-profile help gaining the trust of green consumers!
We'll keep you posted on emerging ideas for lowering the cost of green product certification, which is often too great for new and small businesses, as well as for landowners who seek to make a better living by sustainably managing their forests, grasslands, water resources, and other natural assets. This financial barrier to the proliferation of credibly green products -- that certification costs too much for too many people -- urgently needs to be addressed.
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