The Value of Greenwashing Insurance

When I read about the AIGRMGreen Reputation Coverage, which covers bad press for green building projects, I immediately thought of allegations of greenwashing. From wikipedia:

Greenwash (a portmanteau of green and whitewash) is a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing.

One particular type of greenwashing involves projects seeking or building to LEED standards. A recent Grist article detailed one instance of alleged greenwashing through the use of LEED:

Take, for instance, the highly controversial parking garage plopped in the middle of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Conceived and championed by the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Atlanta Botanical Garden as a way to raise funds and provide parking space for folks attending the park’s special events (like the upcoming “Green Concert” starring Sir Paul McCartney), this “built to LEED standards” structure has been largely derided by neighborhood groups, including Friends of Piedmont Park (FOPP), as being a decidedly improper use of park space.

“We’re upset about the conversion of more public green space to cement and concrete,” says Jack White, a FOPP board member.

Grist is a very popular environmental website. After this story ran, other websites then picked up the story, resulting in substantial negative publicity for this construction project.

Is this the type of scenario that would be covered by the AIGRM Reputation Coverage? If the Piedmont Park had this coverage, would the Grist article represent a reasonable claim under the policy? And again, how would you measure the associated damages?

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Tim Hughes - July 31, 2009 4:31 PM

Count me officially as a skeptic that the AIG policy amounts to much coverage. Sounds like a mushy definition of a covered event, a mushy claim for damages to begin with, and a policy that grabs attention but does not amount to much in the marketplace.

Robert Newcomer - July 31, 2009 6:09 PM

I have not read the insurance contract language and would prefer to know more about the coverage before commenting substantively. I can say, however, that at first blush it sounds a bit like an invitation for litigation re the claim and with AIG over coverage. Not that (as a litigator) I'm complaining . . . .

As a resident of the Atlanta area (and unconnected to the project or any of the groups that opposed it), I will add that the parking deck project in Piedmont Park had a lot of support and dedicated opposition.

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