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Greenwash Alert: Greenopia’s “Top 25 Wine Producers”

Right there, plain and clearly, was the admission of greenwash.Β  The only way now to be included in Greenopia’s “Top 25 Wine Producers” guide in the future is to pay $2500.Β  Kinda staggering, really.

Even I was duped for a minute. WineBusiness.com, a respected trade journal in the wine industry, posted a piece entitled, “Greenopia Rates Top 25 Major Wine Labels”.Β  WineBusiness started the post with a bit of solid commentary about hurdles facing the wine industry and reducing carbon footprints. The rest of the post was merely a press release from Greenopia. I hadn’t heard of Greenopia, but their description sounded reasonable:

The leading online directory for green, sustainable and socially conscious, daily purchase decisions. Greenopia provides the market’s only independent rating and ranking of green services and products. Our rankings and ratings are based on our review of publicly available information and reflect our evaluation of such information.

But when I looked at the list of “major wine labels” I found the list to be very curious.Β  There was only one brand I would have considered to be a top brand and many others were conspicuously missing from the list. I posted a comment and moved on.

But then, I received an email from a colleague at a winery that by all rights should have been included in such a list:

Ironically, I was cleaning out my RSS feeds and noticed your comment at the Wine Business blog about Greenopia’s listing of green wine brands.Β  As you can imagine, I dropped them a line making the same points you did, and including evidence as to why we might be included next time they update their listings.

My colleague then forwarded me Greenopia’s response.Β  The key points were:

  • Greenopia guides have been featured in all sorts of major media that would be valuable coverage for a winery.
  • Guides are updated annually and, up until this point, they have maintained a policy of not allowing any additional companies to be included after the launch. The reason for this is “the substantial time and research costs needed to update our guides.”
  • But, because of the tremendous interest by many companies to be listed, Greenopia has decided to offer the option for inclusion to any of their guides for a fee to cover the research, data collection, and administrative costs.
  • The total cost to be added to the guide is $2,500.

What’s wrong with that, you say? First, consumers lose because eco-labels and eco-guides are confusing and we all end up skeptical of sustainable products.Β  But also, wineries that engage in sustainable practices who cannot afford to or don’t want to buy their way into corporate guides suffer because eco-guide listings that can be bought for a fee erode consumer confidence. The real damage comes when consumers take the next step and diminish the value of legitimate environmental practices. For that, this kind of greenwash is unconscionable.

4 comments
  1. Doug

    This article is very misleading and I wish Ms. Kaplan would have contacted us (Greenopia) or done her research properly before posting. Greenopia accepted no money from any winery to be included in the initial ratings that were carried by numerous blogs and trade magazines. The letter, which is being referred to, was sent out to a several wineries that were interested in being included in the directory after it already launched (and contacted us as a result of this launch) and was part of a larger consulting offer. Any winery that took part in this offer was to be included in the wine ratings, but would have been touted in a special way on the site so that our users would not have been confused as to who was a part of the initial research and who was not. I would also like to point out that Ms. Kaplan conveniently left out the parts of the letter which explain this and address other areas in which is she making false accusations. For a blog that seems is trying to dispel notions of greenwashing, I find it interesting that little to no effort was made to make sure any accusations were accurate. I am more than happy to forward the full letter for you to read.

    The companies that are selected for any of our corporate guides based on their presence in the market alone and do not pay us for that placement. In fact, most of the brands have been static since we started doing corporate research in 2008 and are just updated each year. Greenopia has never accepted money from any brand in its corporate ratings and anyone who took part in this consulting offer would have had an icon signifying that this was a different process than our typical corporate research.

    I welcome Ms. Kaplan to contact us at 805-969-0985 so we can better educate her about how Greenopia works and so her article can be more accurate. Greenopia takes great pride in its credibility and research methodology

  2. Lauren Copeland

    Greenopia does not, and has never required companies to pay ANYTHING to be featured in their guides. Greenopia’s research team chooses which companies to highlight based on strict criteria, for which Greenopia received nothing, no kickbacks, no payments, no fees, etc. Your article is just plain misinformed– slander, if you will. I hope that you take the article down, issue a correction, as well as an apology.

    1. Jennifer Kaplan

      Lauren, please see my post this morning where all the facts are shown clearly. Then you can judge for yourself. This is post is my opinion, and based on the information I read and that is shown in Greenopia’s letter to wineries interested in being included in future guides, my position holds. Please remember that I, unlike Greenopia, have no financial stake in this at all.

      http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2011/09/09/greenopia-gets-mean-over-%E2%80%9Ctop-25-wine-producers%E2%80%9D-greenwash-post/

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