“Greenwashing” by Jeff Bishoff

Sponsored Contribution  —  May 21, 2014

“Greenwashing” is a term which was created to describe a product or company that claimed to have some tangible environmental benefit in order to dupe the public. Over the last several years, consumers are becoming more and more receptive to eco-friendly products and services as a way to correct environmental wrongs. Knowing this, it has become too much of a temptation for companies to exaggerate or overstate their environmental claims, also known as “Greenwashing.”
One industry where you see rampant examples of this deceptive form of marketing is in the mattress industry. Companies such as Essentia and Keetsa, who grossly exaggerate or completely fabricate their environmental claims in order to convince consumers to buy their products over another, are two of the more obvious offenders.
Essentia recently was charged by the FTC for making misleading claims based on the VOC, Volatile Organic Compound, or off-gassing of their foams. By telling consumers their products had zero off-gassing was essentially telling consumers there were no harmful fumes coming from their synthetic materials. 
Keetsa has not been charged currently by the FTC, however, their claims too are interesting to examine. They claim their beds are eco-friendly based on compression technology, which means they ship in a box. True, shipping in a box can save fuel in shipping, however, their mattresses ship in those boxes from China, which consumes much more fuel than mattresses made in the United States. Also, they claim their foams are eco-friendly because they replace somewhere between 7 to 12% of the petroleum based chemicals in the foam with processed plant oil. They offer no scientific substantiation for this claim, which invites FTC scrutiny and possible charges of false claims. greenwashing

“Greenwashing” is a heinous practice designed to prey on those consumers who are susceptible to cleverly crafted marketing messages. It is up to consumers to challenge these statements and decide for themselves based on facts. Companies such as Essentia and Keesta, who are less than forthcoming with the facts, are prime examples of companies that need to be policed and punished for taking advantage of the public with deceptive practices.
Thanks to the power of Google, you can tour any Keetsa Store and see this poster on their walls.

This is the flowchart they advertise to justify their environmental claim that their mattresses are more eco-friendly. On the poster, there are two examples of how mattresses are shipped and delivered, on the left in green is Keetsa, and on the right in grey is supposed to be your typical mattress store. Keetsa shows in the first line that you can fit many more compress-packed mattresses in a semi, while the truck on the right hold much less due to non-compressed technology. In the second line, we see a woman rolling a mattress to her car and a grey mattress delivery truck crossed out. The woman rolling the mattress is to represent a Keetsa mattress being rolled to her car for delivery and the grey truck is the typical mattress store delivery truck using gas to deliver your traditional mattress. Finally, on the last line, it is supposed to show Keetsa being ordered online, the order coming from a factory and magically straight into your home.
The problem with the first line is there is no mention of the fact that the Keetsa mattress is being manufactured in China. There is no picture of the truck leaving the factory taking the compressed mattresses to the shipyard where they are loaded on a ship. And of course there is no giant freighter ship on the poster either. Freighters are notorious for their use of dirty fuel, making them big polluters. Of course once the ship arrives at the dock, there is yet another truck that takes the mattresses to a warehouse, where then they are trucked yet again to Keetsa’s warehouse for the consumer to put into their vehicles. This is a gross misrepresentation of the truth designed to mislead the public into thinking Keetsa mattresses are more green and eco-friendly.
The second line is deceiving as well. It shows a customer rolling the mattress to their car, which uses gas, to take their mattress home. The mattress company no doubt has several mattresses in their small delivery truck pictured, which can be equally eco-friendly due to consolidation of several mattresses to be delivered locally.
Lastly, showing a computer, a factory and your home is plainly making the statement that ordering a mattress from Keetsa online is very eco-friendly. However, with the knowledge of the shipping process above, it is no more eco-friendly than USA made mattresses, and can easily be demonstrated that not only are they not eco-friendly but Keetsa’s mattresses are less eco-friendly than other mattresses on the market made locally.
These are examples of greenwashing in the mattress industry.
By Jeff Bishoff, Grade 12, Ms. Smith’s Econ 2 class

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