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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Upon seeing the top 15 "green brands", my first response was "There's no such thing as a green brand." But that's not true—there really are companies with superior products and decent practices, it's just that consumers have no ready access to reliable information about them. And the high social importance of ecology in recent years has actually made matters worse, not better, with the greenwashing that is increasingly common across all industries only further muddying the waters.

Apple, for instance, and despite its many other virtues, may be greener than it used to be but it's still not especially green. But it feels green, so it makes the list.

This is a failure of the culture, and really a failure of our government—in both cases by design. Simple labels work; they worked in Britain for nutrition, and they could work here, not only with regard to health but along any number of ecological and social-justice vectors as well.

It may be that consumers would still make bad choices even if they were well-informed, but the evidence from Britain suggests otherwise. I think you'd see a significant shift in consumption practices almost immediately.