Environmental Claims

A new Canadian website is giving consumers the power to write report
cards on the myriad environmental claims marketers are slapping on
everything from clothing to building materials.
Ethipedia.net, based in Montreal, highlights companies around the
world using genuinely sustainable practices, including an Ottawa
biotech company heating its offices with a solar wall and a Montreal
condo development designed so its residents will use 60 per cent less
energy than the Canadian average.
“It’s not really about your advertising budget — it’s your actions
that speak louder than your marketing message,” says Tom Liacas, co-
director of Ethiquette Inc. The company created Ethipedia and its
sister site, Ethiquette.ca, a steadily growing directory of almost
1,000 ecofriendly, fair-trade Canadian consumer products.
Entries are submitted by users, sustainability consultants or the
companies themselves, but vetted by Ethipedia to ensure they meet
strict standards, Mr. Liacas says.
Ethipedia, launched as a prototype last month, was initially conceived
as a way for businesses without the resources for a consultant to
access sustainability ideas from leaders in the field, but it also
offers consumers a magnifying glass, he says.
“It’s a kind of truth-check for consumers that want to know what
businesses are actually doing something about sustainability,” Mr.
Liacas says.
The site is the latest example of the growing clout of consumers using
the Internet to talk back to companies and shape their public image.
Dubbed “transparency tyranny” by Trendwatching.com, the phenomenon
transforms millions of users into public fact-checkers, making it more
difficult for anyone to get away with dubious claims, shoddy service
or inflated prices.
“A few years ago, if a company wanted to portray themselves in a
certain way, like being ecologically friendly, they would control the
message for the most part through marketing campaigns and promotions,”
says Ron Cenfetelli, an assistant professor at the University of
British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. “That’s shifted a great
deal, where now the message can be controlled as much, perhaps even
more, by customers themselves.”
A new Canadian website is giving consumers the power to write report
cards on the myriad environmental claims marketers are slapping on
everything from clothing to building materials.
Ethipedia.net, based in Montreal, highlights companies around the
world using genuinely sustainable practices, including an Ottawa
biotech company heating its offices with a solar wall and a Montreal
condo development designed so its residents will use 60 per cent less
energy than the Canadian average.
“It’s not really about your advertising budget — it’s your actions
that speak louder than your marketing message,” says Tom Liacas, co-
director of Ethiquette Inc. The company created Ethipedia and its
sister site, Ethiquette.ca, a steadily growing directory of almost
1,000 ecofriendly, fair-trade Canadian consumer products.
Entries are submitted by users, sustainability consultants or the
companies themselves, but vetted by Ethipedia to ensure they meet
strict standards, Mr. Liacas says.
Ethipedia, launched as a prototype last month, was initially conceived
as a way for businesses without the resources for a consultant to
access sustainability ideas from leaders in the field, but it also
offers consumers a magnifying glass, he says.
“It’s a kind of truth-check for consumers that want to know what
businesses are actually doing something about sustainability,” Mr.
Liacas says.
The site is the latest example of the growing clout of consumers using
the Internet to talk back to companies and shape their public image.
Dubbed “transparency tyranny” by Trendwatching.com, the phenomenon
transforms millions of users into public fact-checkers, making it more
difficult for anyone to get away with dubious claims, shoddy service
or inflated prices.
“A few years ago, if a company wanted to portray themselves in a
certain way, like being ecologically friendly, they would control the
message for the most part through marketing campaigns and promotions,”
says Ron Cenfetelli, an assistant professor at the University of
British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. “That’s shifted a great
deal, where now the message can be controlled as much, perhaps even
more, by customers themselves.”

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