Separating the Green from the Wash

From $50 bamboo T-shirts to environmental coloring books handed out by petroleum companies, greenwashing continues to be high on my list of "Things That Make Me Want To Rip My Hair Out and Then Go Do Worse to the People Responsible." The worst part, of course, is that it's often not easy to know when your green is coming to you heavily laundered. ClimateCount is an organization that's trying to help on that front. They put together an annual scorecard of Fortune 500 companies that breaks down these firms' real record on the environment. Then they rate the company's commitment to environmental responsibility as Stuck, Starting, or Striding. Everything is separated out by sector, so you can easily find the companies you want to check up on. Granted, I'm not convinced that Airlines, as a category, are ever going to move much beyond Starting. But I'm also frankly impressed that any are even at that point. So, tradeoffs.

Couple of major downsides. First, this list is by no means comprehensive. We're talking Fortune 500 here, so that won't help you if you don't do a lot of business with those companies to begin with. For instance, the Beer category is sadly limited to Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors, and SAB Miller. And what a cold, sad world that would be.

Second, this is all a little subjective. Proctor and Gamble may get a Striding rating, largely for setting up energy use reduction goals that produced some results, and that may make them more green than their competitors. But does that really make them a green company? Overall, I think this might be better for helping you figure out which companies are totally blowing smoke up your various orifices than it is at helping you know which companies are truly awesome. But even that is useful.

ClimateCount 2009 Scorecard

Interview with ClimateCount's Executive Director, from New Hampshire Public Radio