An analysis on the filing of trade marks has found that an increasing number of companies are falsely claiming to be selling environmentally friendly products.
Griffith Hack's report, The green trade mark boom - gold or grey? released this week found that 3800 "green" trade marks have been filed in Australia from January 2003 to September 2009.
A green trade mark is one in which a product uses green lettering or terms such as green, eco, nature, carbon neutral, or symbols such as a planet or a tree.
The report found that the use of such symbols has increased as a percentage of total trade marks filed, from 0.7 per cent in 2004 to 1.9 per cent in 2009.
However, the report also found that the threat of "greenwashing" has also increased.
This is a term used to describe the situation where companies make environmental claims on its branding that it can't support. The report notes that in 2008, Choice commented that "greenwashing is out of control on supermarket shelves".
"Green marketers might be their own worst enemies," Chris Sgourakis, a principal with Griffith Hack said. "They can get so carried away by unsubstantiated green claims that consumers just get put off."
Sgourakis is the head of the firm's clean and sustainable technology group, formed in 2008. He believes that if the level of "greenwashing" continues at its present rate, it could affect the volume of green trade mark filing in the future.
"As consumers start to get cynical, we may see a plateau of green trade marks as the market corrects itself," he said.
Sgourakis believes that greenwashing is more prevalent in smaller companies, who are able to "fly under the radar more" with their corporate branding than larger businesses.
"The ACCC is more likely to come after a larger, more well known company than a smaller one," he said.
The report also revealed that more than four million Australians are seen as "eco-aware consumers", with their expenditure expected to top $22 billion this year.
Goods and services most represented in green trade marks include floor coverings, building materials and paints.