Posted by: ecodestination | January 27, 2010

Green companies, get your butts in gear!

Comic by Gary Varvel

In the recent post Ecotourism in the Everglades of South Florida, Cinthia Pacheco touched on The Everglades Day Safari, which appears to be an example of a greenwashing company due to the vagueness of its eco claims and general dearth of information on its purported environmental responsibility.

Pete Corradino, a guide for the aforementioned Everglades safari and board member of the Society for Ethical Ecotourism (SEE), got in touch through this blog and wrote that his company is fully committed to preserving the Everglades. He also said that, even though SEE’s 2009 certification criteria is not yet available online, it will be in June 2010. At that time, anyone will be able to access it for self-assessment. Further, he’s offered to email me a copy.

That’s doubly fantastic, and both Cinthia and I are very grateful that he has taken the time to talk to us about the Everglades Day Safari and SEE both in the comments section of the last post and via email, where we have continued our conversation.

As I pointed out to him, it would be useful for the safari website – and for the websites of all allegedly green companies – to detail its commitment to the environment and describe its certification, if any, to show why and how the company is genuinely eco/green/environmentally responsible and rule out any greenwashing.

At this time, the safari website provides very little data on its sustainability policy; there is no description of its efforts to preserve the Everglades, no criteria listed – nothing except a few vague phrases on the home page. Corradino said he’s now looking into updating the site to include the missing information on the company’s green initiatives.

Corradino was upset that Cinthia suspected his company was guilty of greenwashing – but without the appropriate information, how is one supposed to know that a company offers a truly eco-tour/lodge/etc.?

Being denied the necessary information, it is reasonable that people will respond to eco claims with skepticism, both because the term “eco” is often a cover for greenwashing and because the Everglades (in the case of the Everglades Day Safari) have been trampled on and polluted for decades.

To cement my point, here is a quote about the unreliability of the term “eco” that I noted in the post Fight greenwashing! (Wait, can we?) Pt. 2:

‘Already the word “eco” has lost all power and meaning,’ says Guyonne James, senior projects manager at Tourism Concern, a UK charity which campaigns against exploitation. ‘In Brazil, if a bed-and-breakfast has a back garden, they’ll call it an eco-lodge. There has been such a proliferation of claims and green labels that as a tourist you really have no idea what’s going on.’

So, companies, if you want us to learn about and believe your eco claims, be ready to make your environmental standards and certification process publicly available!

It’s not fair to expect us to give you a call or visit your premises when deciding on a tour/hotel/whatnot for our next adventure just because you don’t back up your eco claims online. If you’re selling a green product, it’s your job to prove it to consumers with all the documentation you’ve got to gain credibility, and to make it easy on us so we’re more likely to choose you over other companies. (Please note, also, that this move will also improve your reputation and banish any concerns of greenwashing!)

Until then, it is better for us all to be safe – and skeptical – than sorry by finding out when it’s too late that we’ve supported a greenwashing business.

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Responses

  1. It is the responsibility of our company to our guests and the environment to provide everything we advertise as an ecotour company. Could our website use a bit more information regarding our eco-practices? yes and I have said that but the internet is not the only form of communication and it IS the responsibility of the consumer to call and get more information if necessary. Anytime I need more information on a company I will pick up the phone and call to ask my question. I would be glad to answer any questions guests have regarding our tour.

    I find it hypocritical that you expect an operator to provide every detail of their business on a webpage and yet you write a blog with little research and claim “There’s no particular reason why Cinthia chose your company” as an example of greenwashing other than it may have been the first one that came up on Google. You then suggest there is no need for journalistic integrity because you don’t have the time or space in a short blog to do that type of research. How is that fair to your readers? How is that fair to my consumers?

    To claim as fact that my company is greenwashing is libelous.

  2. If you would rather not justify on your website why you call your tour “eco,” that’s totally fine. My point is that if a lot of other companies describe their green initiatives in detail, while you only say you provide an “eco-tour” but expect others to believe you have a green company, then it’s likely some people will not buy it, and it’s possibly even more likely they will not call your company to ask for details when they can just find another.

    It doesn’t matter which company Cinthia chose or which company I chose for whichever post – what matters is that if a company calls itself green and doesn’t back it up, it’s suspicious to a lot of people. That’s it, Pete.

    Nobody said Everglades Day Safari is a greenwashing company. On the contrary, I state that even though you don’t yet list your environmental standards on your company website, you plan to – precisely because you said you’re committed to preserving the Everglades and you want to attract consumers who share your goal. Your incentive is highlighted by your belonging to SEE, which I also wrote.

    I’m not violating journalistic integrity here and I’m not saying yours is a greenwashing company. I’m not sure where you’re getting this.

  3. Hey Pete,

    The reason I chose Everglades Safari Tour is because on Gordon’s Travel Guide (http://ecotourism.gordonsguide.com/evergladedaysafari/index.cfm), your company defines itself as “a first-class eco-tour” and says that it “prescribes to the principles of ethical ecotourism as defined by the International Ecotourism Society.”

    I chose it because this blog talks about ecotourism, not just randomly chosen tourist companies.

    Your company website is http://www.ecosafari.com/. You are directly affiliating yourself with ECO-tourism, so that is what I was looking for when I was reading about your company.

    As you said, it is the responsibility of the consumer to get information on the travel companies they choose (because the internet isn’t the only form of communication). We are doing exactly that here: investigating. We want to see if what your company provides is really ecotourism, since that is what you are claiming.

    I am open to hear about your company’s policies and what you consider to be ecotourism, because this may be where the discrepancies lie.

    Thank you,

    Cinthia P.


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