New website takes aim at brand ‘greenwashing’

If you’ve ever wondered just how sustainable a particular product was, but knew you couldn’t trust the information on the label, help is at hand.

If you're looking to combat the cynical ‘greenwashing’ campaigns that so many businesses engage in (not you BPyou’re great), but don't know where to start, a new website has just launched that cuts the eco-friendly bull and uses real science to give you the truth behind the claims.

Non-profit site envormation.org, a new website designed to take the effort out of substantiating claims of environmental-friendliness, provides visitors with simple breakdowns of the actual data beyond a product's marketing hype, while providing all the necessary links to it's (usually academic) sources.

We spoke to the brains behind the site, Christchurch-based business consultant Markus Benter-Lynch, about the why he started envormation, how it all works and the difficulties facing new sites looking sponsorship.

Q. Excellent site, Markus. What was the impetus behind it?

A. I see myself as being a typical consumer. And like most people, I want to buy things that have a limited environmental footprint. So I’d go online to research the products I was buying, and it would end up taking two hours to find the information, usually in the form of some sort of technical document. I thought, ‘Well I’m passionate about this stuff and it’s taken me two hours to find out what I want to know, buried at the bottom of this report. How can a typical consumer hope to ever get this information?’

So I thought about it for a couple of years, always thinking ‘someone’s going to [create a website like this] soon, but nobody ever did. Finally, I thought ‘bugger it – I’ll do it’.

The information is there, and there’s an opportunity to pull it all together, so that’s what we’re doing.

Q. Where does the majority of the data come from?

A. At the moment it’s all off the internet, but it’s a case of ‘you need to know where to look for it’.

It’s early days for us, but going forward we’ll be looking to work with universities, research institutes and consultancy firms. A year from now we’re hoping to have sponsorship in place so that we can commission a research institute to produce the studies for us.

Q. How has the site been received by industry?

All the feedback so far has been great. But then again, it’s not like anyone going to ring you up and say ‘Hey, I don’t like your website!’ Various people have said its great and a lot of people have wanted to cooperate with us, so that’s encouraging.

The thing about envormation.org is that it’s a search tool, first and foremost. We’re not selling anything. We’re filling a niche that’s really there.

Q. Now you’re searching for a sponsor? How’s that going?

A. So far we’ve only had a few people approach us, but it’s early days and we’re still in the process of getting the information up and everything running smoothly. There’s a lot more information to get out there, so that’s our main focus at the moment. It’s the old chicken and the egg problem: We need to get the information out before we can get sponsorship, but it’s hard to get sponsorship before we get the information out there.