Greenwash Action last week called Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) marketing for its Green Globes rating system misleading “greenwash.”

The joint initiative of Sierra Club and Greenpeace, and a program of the Earth Island Institute, released a report saying “Green Globes is greenwash” in an open letter to GBI's board of directors. The leader asked GBI to stop marketing Green Globes as an equivalent green building rating system to LEED and the Living Building Challenge, and to cease its underwriting of negative attacks on LEED and the USGBC.

The letter came one day after GBI released a study from Drexel University indicating that Green Globes is significantly cheaper and faster to use than LEED. The study comes roughly two months after the launch of LEED Exposed, a website from a group called the Environmental Policy Alliance that claims that LEED is a failed rating system. LEED Exposed is not directly related to GBI.

In the letter, Greenwash wrote, "To date, the GBI and its allies have taken actions that create confusion in the marketplace and suggest that Green Globes is equivalent to stronger green building rating systems.”

Green Globes, the group says, is not as tough a standard as LEED in all of its categories. The letter urges GBI “either to improve Green Globes where it is currently weak, or to reposition it as a streamlined system that does not seek or claim equivalence with higher standards like LEED and Living Building Challenge."

Which Wood?The letter also touches on a long-simmering debate over the inclusion of wood in both Green Globes and LEED, the first of which allows certifications from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the latter which only recognizes certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). 

Siding with FSC proponents who argue that SFI certification is not on par with FSC standards, the letter encourages the SFI "to either improve its standards so it is truly equivalent to FSC, or to rebrand itself and cease claiming or seeking equivalence to FSC."

The Greenwash Action letter alleges that the timber industry is also behind a range of state-level campaigns seeking to ban LEED in state construction. 

"Those of you who represent the conventional timber industry and the chemical and plastics industries created the GBI," the letter says. "Your industries dominate its governance and control its funding. If you are sincere about promoting high-performance building, you must cease attacking leadership standards like LEED and FSC and stop using your lobbying power to create market drivers for Green Globes by force."

Responding to Greenwash’s allegations, SFI said its “dedicated to healthy, thriving, well-managed forests for today and for future generations. A wide variety of stakeholders support and constructively engage with SFI including representatives of environmental, conservation, professional and academic groups, as well as forestry professionals—who understand that the future of our forests depends on the actions we take today. SFI program participants include landowners and managers, manufacturers, public agencies, First Nation and Tribes, conservation groups, and academic institutions.”

“SFI program participants have invested more than $1.3 billion in conservation research since 1995, and SFI’s independent, rigorous and science-based standard is improving conditions in forests across North America every day,” SFI said.

GBI president Jerry Yudelson could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.