Greenwashing. Unfortunately, it’s not a new form of consumer deception. But, fortunately, there are both new and improving means of shining a light on those who seek to deceive, as well as recognizing and rewarding those who provide true value with high-performance, green building.
In September 2015, the FTC sent warning letters to five providers of environmental certification seals and businesses that use them, alerting them to the “agency’s concerns that the seals could be considered deceptive and may not comply with the FTC’s Green Guides.” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated, “Environmental seals and certifications matter to people who want to shop green ... [b]ut if the seals’ claims are broader than the products’ benefits, they can deceive people.”
The FTC also provided guidance in its press release on the appropriate use of “performing seals.” Specifically, the FTC emphasized the need for marketers to clearly and prominently state the basis of a green seal to avoid any “implied” general environmental benefits claims that cannot be substantiated.
Greenwashing is a broad consumer concern, and increasingly, an important one for homebuyers. An NBC affiliated recently investigated greenwashing in the southwest Florida real estate market to highlight the problems of builders falsely touting their homes as green.
Real estate appraiser and high-performance home valuation expert Sandy Adomatis told buyers not to “be afraid to question the [home builders] and ask them to put in writing what they have done and provide you with documents." She also suggested that buyers ask if a home is [third-party] certified [to the] National Green Building Standard to ensure a buyer gets the green home they expect.
So, what does this mean for builders?
First, it means homebuyers are interested and looking for green homes. Savvy homebuyers will be searching websites like NGBS.com to find a better home that provides the greatest value for their investment. If you want to build green homes but not sure where to start, our NGBS Green Builder’s Resource Guide is a great place to start.
Second, if you are building green homes, back up your green marketing claims with the FTC-compliant NGBS Green certification mark.
Finally, reap the rewards of building a truly green, third-party certified home. A recent report prepared by the North Carolina Building Performance Association found that high-performance homes and buildings in North Carolina sold for a 9.5% price premium over non-certified green homes. And, of the five certification and rating programs included in the sale price analysis, NGBS Green carried the highest average sale price at $143.44 per square foot.
As the song says, “cheaters gonna cheat.” So what’s an honest builder to do to set yourself apart from those who seek to deceive? Rely on a credible third party to speak for you. Until we have an end to greenwashing, we have NGBS Green – a better place to call home for consumers, and a safe, profitable business strategy for savvy builders.
If you have questions about getting started with NGBS Green, are looking to get proper valuation for your high-performance homes, or have concerns about greenwashing in your local market, let us know.***