The Future of 5-Green-Star Ratings

Posted on July 22, 2011

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With over 400 Eco (Green) Labels around the world, it’s time for the Fortune 500 to simplify Green Product Ratings to 5 Green Stars. A recent Fortune article titled “The Trouble with Green Product Ratings” (July 25, 2011 issue) identified many challenges that prevent converging to one standard. Fortune is right.  There is a Tower of Babel of Green Product Ratings. Does anyone speak the Green language?

The 2011 Green Brands Study found that 60% of consumers want to buy from environmentally responsible companies. Consumers use packaging information and prior experience with a company if they choose green products. 75% of consumers would stop buying a product if its environmental claim were misleading and/or inaccurate (Source: Cone Inc.).  So what companies decide for a green product label (rating) drives purchasing decisions. Yet companies can spend millions trying to convince consumers they’re green: perception may not equal reality. Product labels can contain information that leads to greenwashing: the deceptive use of information to promote a misleading perception that a product is eco-friendly.

Virtually all consumers know that if they use or buy a product or service that has a 5-Star Rating, it would be the best of the best in its category. By using a 5-Green-Star Rating, EcoLeader companies would be speaking the language of green to buyers. Here are a few examples of other 5-Star rating systems widely used today:

Hotel ratings on travel sites: A traveler knows what to expect (and pay for) in a Five-Star hotel versus a One-Star hotel.

Yelp ratings: millions of consumers review and rate products and services based on five gold stars. Yelp crossed 20 million reviews last week.

NHTSA Car Safety ratings (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration): Five Stars = lowest chance of injury; One Star=highest chance of injury. Despite having innumerable tests, NHTSA simplified their rating to a five-star range.

Consumer Reports uses five circles equivalent to five stars that consumer review to see how much of each circle is shaded to be good or bad.

So companies in their respective industries (consumer electronics, food, household items, etc.) can decide which criteria are used for a 5-Green-Star rating. Just as a consumer doesn’t need to know how electricity is produced in order to enjoy home lighting, all consumers need to know is: How many Green Stars is a product rated?

As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

What criteria would you like to see for a 5-Green-Star Rating?

If you enjoyed this, you may also want to read:

What the Fortune 500 Can Learn from North Texas’ Zero Energy

Why Samsung Can Win with Green (Eco) Products

Copyright 2011 by Ed Valdez. All rights reserved.

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