Published on September 9th, 2011 | by Jennifer Kaplan0
Is “Top 25 Wine Producers” Greenwash or Not?
Two days ago I wrote my view of how asking for a fee to be included in a “Top 25 Wine Producers Guide” issued by a company called Greenopia constituted greenwash. Greenopia reached out to me by LinkedIn and then, at my request, emailed:
Thanks for promptly responding to my message on linkedin; I do appreciate it. I also appreciate your willingness to have a dialogue.
This is the first time in 5 years we have ever had negative press and given its aggressive tone, it is very alarming to us. In addition, in the history of the company, we’ve never charged a business to be included in our local green business directory (which sports around 100K businesses across the US), product directory, and we have never received any payment for any of the companies you see in our corporate directories or their subsequent launches. None of the wineries included in our release, or in any of the press pickups, paid us in anyway to be included in our research. The letter that was passed onto you was only sent to companies who reached out to us to be included in the wine guide after it had already launched (by well over a month) and it was part of a larger consulting offer. The wineries would have gone through the same rating/research process as part of a competitive analysis (complete with white papers and consulting) and would have appeared on our website, but would have been touted differently (with a special icon).
Accusing a company to be greenwashing can be financially damaging, therefore I’ve asked our legal team review your article because of the effects this may have on some of our partnerships and branding. In the future, please reach out to us directly rather than going to press with only a small fraction of the information. We’ve never turned down a press request, no matter how small, and pride ourselves on our transparency and credibility. We have no problem when disagreements may arise from our findings, but we do resent false accusations based on nothing but misinformation. I am happy to make myself available at your earliest convenience so we can promptly sort this out. I look forward to hearing from you.
Research Director, Greenopia
I truly never intended to 1) deliberately leave out parts of the letter (I left in all sorts of extraneous content in order to show the full picture); 2) make false accusations (it’s my opinion and I don’t think it’s false); 3) disseminate misinformation (that goes back to leaving out parts of the letter, since I did not add any content); and 4) not doing proper research (I had and have all the information that was made available to the public). In an effort to refrain from any intended badmouthing, I am simply going to publish the complete letter explaining the fee-based program. This way you can decide if Greenopia’s fee-based inclusion program constitutes greenwash, business as usual or something in between.
I also want to briefly clarify why I personally believe “Top 25 Wine Producers Guide” should not include paid entries. I think companies that judge a product’s greenness should be independent and avoid conflicts of interest and it seems to me that receiving fees to be included in a “green guide” makes that impossible and creates bias in the minds of consumers. I should add that I have no financial gain in any of this and that I’m merely a humble blogger/watchdog. I write about greenwash because most “greener” products commit one or more of the seven “sins of Greenwashing” and I believe it is important to promote responsible green marketing if we want to see greener products on our shelves. I also post about greenwash because it’s the one thing I as a consumer can do. In fact, it’s one of the only ways a consumer can draw attention to misleading claims. If Greenopia’s “Top 25 Wine Producers” program seems okay, let the court of public opinion set me straight. However, veiled threats that intend to quiet the discussion seem, well, unseemly in this context. And, finally, here’s a test: See if you can find any mention in the email below of the “special icon” for paid participants.
Now, here is Greenopia’s letter (the names have been blocked for privacy):
From: XXXXXX XXXXXX
To: XXXXX XXXXXX
Subject: Greenopia Listing Inquiry
Thank you for your interest in being included and rated in the Greenopia Wine Guide. As you undoubtedly know, Greenopia is the leader in the corporate and local business environmental rating/assessment space with its guides having been featured in USA Today, CNBC, NBC, Fox News, The Economist, Reuters, Yahoo!, AOL News, and hundreds of other media outlets. And specifically the wine industry, our work has been featured in Yahoo! News, Fast Company, and MNN.
In our corporate directory, we attempt to select the most visible traditional and green major brands in the marketplace for that industry. Depending on the category, we either launch with 10, 20, or 30 corporations. Because of the subjective nature of visibility and popularity, the brands we chose may or may not always match what other guides have selected.
Each of our corporate guides are updated annually and, up until this point, we have maintained a policy of not allowing any additional companies to be included after the launch, beyond the initial batch of corporations selected for the study. The reason for this was due to the substantial time and research costs needed to update our guides.
But, because of the tremendous interest by many companies to be listed, we have decided to offer the option for inclusion to any of our guides for a fee to cover the research, data collection, and administrative costs. By using this service, your brand will be added to our site within 2 weeks.
There are many benefits to being included in Greenopia’s various corporate guides including:
- Greenopia will construct a short white-paper outlining where your company is positioned within the green competitive landscape.
- Greenopia will provide 2-hours of consulting through a conference call discussing your company’s result and also notify you of other best practices that exist within your industry to help your company reduce its environmental footprint.
- Greenopia will write a short article for the front page of Greenopia.com notifying its users of the updated guide and a brief summary of the new brand addition.
- Greenopia will post a message about the inclusion of your brand in all of our social media networks that reach over 10K consumers.
- If your company receives our highest possible honor of a 4-leaf score, based on the existing criteria for that corporate guide, Greenopia will construct and submit a press release promoting your brand and its greenness.
- Placement on the Greenopia site that receives hundreds of thousands of unique web visitors each month.
- Media visibility to potentially millions of consumers, many of whom actively seek our green products and services and are willing to pay a price premium.
- Greenopia will also offer any additional consulting or research services at a substantially discounted rate.
The total cost to be added to the guide is $2,500. We welcome any questions and please feel free to contact our Director of Corporate Communications, XXXXXX XXXXXX, either via email or at 805-969-XXXX if you have any questions or comments.
Thanks again for your interest in being part of our study and we look forward to hearing back from you.
The Greenopia Team
Okay, you decide.