"If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist."
So says the old adage about the importance of quantifying results. If we're applying it to environmentally friendly products, then our progress is almost non-existent. Customers at the store don't have the time or information to calculate the environmental impacts of various products, and so they are forced to balance their taste for saving mother earth with their suspicion of empty greenwashing.
Fast Company's Ken Musgrave says, and I agree, that the time has come to design a globally standardized unit of green. To be credible and relevant in a world of global supply chains, an international organization could act as a certifying body. I don't think one could be crowned king, or even necessarily involve government support. Instead, the market could decide which is the most credible and accurate. Eventually, just as Blu-Ray beat HD-DVD in their own format war, we'll have a clear winner.
I think a lot of people are tired of having to rely on the packaging and advertising of products to make decisions about what is sustainable and what isn't. A simple number would allow people to quickly and easily tell which products are truly green and which are more motivated by another type of green - the money that they earn from exploiting the customer's wishes to save the planet.
Clearly, it won't be a simple task, and it will always be imperfect, but at this point something is better than nothing.
For more information on related topics, check out our resources on social responsibility.