Companies fake their 'green' credentials

It is hard to find a big American company that does not have some sort of "green" initiative. General Electric (GE) even has an entire program based on corporate-wide environmental efforts called Ecomagination. But companies are formed to make profits -- which means that being "green" may only go so far as changing business patterns in a way that makes the companies money. Environmental efforts that cost a great deal of money are rare.

Now Reutersweighs in, reporting that the lack of commitment to significant efforts to improve the environment are widespread. The news service writes "This has led to accusations of a 'greenwash,' with environmentalists claiming firms are using big public relations campaigns to mask a lack of commitment to change.

Recently 24/7 Wall St. put together a list of the ten largest greenwashers based on the differences between their PR campaigns and their actual practices, and it turns out that the concerns about hypocrisy are often true.

Some of the country's largest companies may be much less environmentally friendly than they appear. "According to the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), General Electric is the sixth most toxic company when considering the amount of population exposed to its pollution and its toxicity level from its plants," 24/7 reported.

DuPont (DD) is another company that speaks a great deal about its "green" credentials. 24/7 found that "On December 12, 2005 the EPA reached a $16.5 million settlement with the DuPont arising from violations alleged by the agency that the company failed to report the possible health risks associated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical compound used to make Teflon. "

Not surprisingly, oil companies which say that they are taking their environmental obligations seriously sometimes do not. 24/7 reported that BP (BP) entered into a settlement with the EPA stemming from charges related to violations of The Clean Air Act. According to Catherine R. McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, "BP failed to fulfill its obligations under the law, putting air quality and public health at risk."

Reutersis right. "Green" is not always green. Public companies often spend money on PR campaigns that are probably a waste of shareholder money and may even be misleading.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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