National Restaurant Association: A Greener Shade of Greenwash, Part 4 – Recap and Conclusion

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Over the past three days, we’ve seen what we’ve been calling “A Greener Shade of Greenwash” from the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

In Part One we laid the foundation. Showing how the NRA uses slick marketing and well-produced multimedia to deliver a message supposedly promoting green business practices, emphasizing the advantages of appealing to the eco-minded customer and implementing sustainability best practices. The NRA says they offer the Greener Restaurant program as a solution for restaurateurs.

In Part Two we saw step-by-step how an imaginary restaurant – Green Wallace Wash – becomes Certified/Recognized by the NRA as a “Greener Restaurant” three times over, all by doing nothing more than paying the annual membership fee and going online and making false claims about its internal sustainability program – all endorsed by the National Restaurant Association’s Greener Restaurant program.

We discuss the National Restaurant Association’s attempt to sidestep accountability for a program with no standards, benchmarks, or verification by insisting such burden is on the shoulders of the consumer, not the organization granting the endorsement.

In Part Three we examined the Conserve Solutions Center, a pavilion planned for the exhibit floor of the upcoming National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago on May 22-25.

The Conserve Solutions Center is promoted as an opportunity for business-to-business marketing of “green business solutions,” an opportunity to display green products and services for interested restaurant owners.

We saw how “Troy,” a prospective exhibitor at the Conserve Solutions Center submitted four items for consideration: two products made of virgin plastic, one cleaning product clearly stated as made from 100% Chlorine and ethyl cellosolve (a chemical listed in California as a hazardous material), and a Styrofoam cup. When specifically asked if the products were acceptable for inclusion at the Conserve Solutions Center, a representative from the NRA replied in an email: “Your products are a great fit for the Conserve Solutions Center”.

We have established a clear pattern of the kind of cynicism, deception, and false claims that define the worst in greenwashing. It should not – indeed it can not – be the burden of the customer to benchmark and verify claims implicitly and explicitly endorsed by the organization issuing the endorsement – or the endorsement means nothing. That is a truth the semantical argument in which the National Restaurant Association would have us engage over a “recognition” vs. a “certification” program cannot dissuade.

The National Restaurant Association has undertaken a sophisticated, well-planned, and intentional greenwash campaign. It ultimately hurts those it professes to help, casting doubt and suspicion on legitimately benchmarked and verified sustainability programs.

And there’s one more thing.

Lobbying against the environment

By virtue of what we have seen over the past few days, it is clear that the National Restaurant Association is marketing sustainability as a top concern. But that’s just the veneer over which lay the true agenda.

All one need do is follow the money. The National Restaurant Association is the single largest financial contributor in the industry supporting politicians blocking any progress on climate change and energy policy reform.  They are charging $250 for businesses to access a website that gives them a fake certification that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  And finally, they charging up to $4,000 for businesses to claim to be green in their Conserve pavilion, regardless of how green their products are.

The NRA needs to know that the public and restaurants are smarter than that.  They deserve more than that.  The NRA needs to know that the environment is not for sale.

Featured image credit: Ron Mader, courtesy Flickr

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  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention National Restaurant Association: A Greener Shader of Greenwash, Part 4 – Recap and Conclusion « The Greenwashing Blog --

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention National Restaurant Association: A Greener Shade of Greenwash, Part 4 – Recap and Conclusion « The Greenwashing Blog --

  3. That’s some deception and at a steep price. Now everyone can claim they have greener products/services and all they have to do is buy it from the NRA.

  4. It’s important that all consumers and in turn businesses think more about greening their products and services but doing it in ways that are not really green is just not going to cut it. Thanks for your posts on this subject as it is good for people know the truth.

  5. Thanks for the comment. It looks like you’re doing your part to connect consumer with green companies at – keep it up!

  6. I’m glad that blog like this is promoting for being green. Having a green environment can really help us for having a fresh air and helps to prevent flood. We should act now and not wait until it get worst.

  7. Great insight. NRA was at a local restaurant convention signing companies up “sight unseen.” I wonder why you haven’t gone after for doing the very same thing? This is the most bold Greenwashing company on the internet.

  8. Many big businesses see the “Green Movement” as a fad in which they can quickly cash in on consumers who are willing to pay money for a better cause. While some of these companies or organization looks like they are trying to do the right thing on the service following the money will show their true colors.

  9. Making everything green is good if it is beneficial and eco friendly to others. But it is a big surprise that why our National Restaurant Association (NRA) endorsed Green Wallace wash as a” greener restaurant”. Is it not something unfair on NRA to cheat common people just for the sake of getting money? I feel really disappointed and frustrated by NRA’s motto. Without benchmark standards and without meeting the legitimate policies selling products or endorsing products is illegal. NRA might know that they are showing disloyalty but I am startled that why they are doing such crap shit things just to say “we are turning everything green”.

  10. Greenwashing is a major problem today. Being green is not financially beneficial for a company’s bottom line. “Going green” properly takes time, money and dedication. It is up to us consumers to point out when a company greenwashes in order to stop their fraud!

  11. And this is the fourth part. Well, I agree with Jimmy, Tom! Going green properly takes time, money and dedication.

    And lastly, thank you for taking the time to write the four parts of your “Greener Shade of Greenwash.” This actually gives me a good reference.

  12. Pingback: National Restaurant Association: Why be Green, when you can be Mean? | Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

  13. Man, some of the Orlando, Florida area Restaurants waste so much food it is ridiculous. Just think about how many homeless people could be fed with the food that is just wasted. Many Americans are all about themselves and do not care. It is refreshing to see blogs such as this one used for a positive cause.

  14. What most people don’t seem to appreciate is that “Green” is generally good for business and much more than just jumping on the PR bandwagon. Green often means using less resources = cheaper, minimizing waste = cheaper, using natural materials = cheaper. Cheaper means less costs, less cost means more profit ie GREE IS BENEFICIAL TO THE BOTTOM LINE. Big business needs to embrace green more emphatically.