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.