By Elden Freeman
With environmental concerns at the forefront of the news agenda, businesses
are taking notice of the opportunity that today’s consumer mindset presents.
As divided American legislators wrestle over the landmark Waxman-Markey bill,
the writing is on the wall that the market is interested in goods and services
that facilitate a more ecological lifestyle. The public relations arms of many
companies have noticed the trend, and not always to great effect.
Corporate response to widespread environmental awareness ranges from the
positive and transparent to the unfortunate and deceptive. Some companies have
responded well and have been rewarded, as in the case of the success of hybrid
vehicles. Even Caterpillar has developed a hybrid diesel-electric bulldozer.
But in all fields, there are organizations more interested in marketing
themselves than addressing the issue. The term “greenwashing” was coined to
describe the disingenuous activities of companies and organizations that
pursue activities that supposedly benefit the environment but in reality are
only public relations exercises without any substantial environmental benefit,
or whose benefits are vague and misleading at best.
Recently controversy has erupted in the United States over which foods can be
classified as “organic”, and accusations of greenwashing have been thrown
Certifying organizations are subject to their own pressures, and so knowing
which authorities to trust can be confusing. At first glance, a lot of
businesses may seem to be quite environmentally friendly, with certifications
from green-sounding organizations, some which the average consumer may see
quite often. The truth is that some certifying organizations are simply
business-affiliated groups or lobby organizations with minimal if any
certification standards. Or, sometimes certification logos of groups like
EnergyStar are used without permission.
Not all greenwashing is on purpose. There are some organizations that, while
well-meaning, lack the knowledge and preparedness required to fully tackle the
considerable task of reducing their environmental impact. So some bottled
water companies advertise how they have reduced paper labels on their
products, as opposed to evaluating the production, materials sourcing,
transportation, and disposal of their product. Realizing authentic
improvements requires considering all parts of the manufacturing process, and
the entire life-cycle of a product. The organizations that make a difference
are those that have been diligent in their study of environmental issues, and
possess the all-around knowledge to offer strong solutions that aren’t just
public relations Band-Aids.
The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers provides real estate
professionals in Canada with the best tools to improve their real estate
practice. It provides training and educational resources to help practitioners
identify environmentally friendly homes, and to see how buyers and sellers can
enhance property values and reduce costs by making homes more energy
efficient. It also certifies real estate organizations through its corporate
green real estate leaders program, identifying organizations that adopt green
practices in their day-to-day business operation to reduce energy consumption
and waste. As well, it has partnered with home inspection leaders AmeriSpec,
the nonprofit Earth Day Canada, and the Ontario provincial government to
deliver programs, information, and services to real estate professionals.
NAGAB’s certification is backed up by thorough research and the best
environmental practices in use in the real estate business.
Identifying genuine green organizations and learning about the services and
information they offer give both businesses and private individuals a leg up
on coming changes that will affect business operations and personal lives in
the near future. The Waxman-Markey bill is part of a historical trend along
with previous agreements like the Kyoto Accord, and both likely represent just
a taste of changes to come. In time, it is probable that institutions like
governmental regulators, insurers, and all manner of business will codify in
policy what is now a top concern for consumers. Organizations like NAGAB offer
genuine and useful tools for meeting challenges in the more ecologically
sensitive marketplace, and to excel in it.
Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director
of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB).
Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important
role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. (416) 536-7325;