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August 11, 2020 4 min read

Greenwashing in the Mattress Industry

As eco-friendly brands and businesses with a green, sustainable model continue to gain ground in response to consumer demand for clean, ethically sourced products, more and more companies are following suit. This trend is reflected in various industries, including mattress manufacturing.

And although one downside of “going green,” so to speak, is higher production costs –
which means higher market prices – people who see the value of eco-friendly living support the cause and are among the most ardent and determined consumers.

An unfortunate outcome of the green movement, however, is “greenwashing.” Mattress companies that are after the goodwill generated by favourable economic benefits of offering eco-friendly, sustainable products have jumped on the green bandwagon. Some mattress makers have been cashing in on consumers’ desire to have eco-friendly, sustainable choices.

Now, this is all fine and good, that is, IF – and this is a big if – the companies in question are actually implementing green practices and processes before, during and after production. These include sourcing raw materials, transportation, production and all other steps in the supply chain.

At Nature’s Embrace, we’ve made it part of our mission to provide customers with high-quality mattresses using truly natural and organic materials. We believe that consumer education is one of the most effective and powerful ways of ensuring manufacturer accountability.

Filtering the marketing noise

Unscrupulous mattress manufacturers use marketing-speak to fool customers into thinking that their products are Eco-friendly and safe. These companies toss around words like “natural,” “organic,” “sustainable,” “ethical” and other similar green terms in their marketing materials.

Of course, it doesn’t help that legislation regarding labelling is both weak and vague, so it is up to consumers to arm themselves with accurate information. This way, they’ll know who’s walking the talk and who’s spewing green terminology for the sake of their bottom line.

Finding meaning

For the sake of clarity, we will now talk about industry jargon used to attract consumers with a healthy, sustainable, eco-friendly mindset.

Eco-friendly, plant-based or green

We find the terms “eco-friendly,” “plant-based” and “green” to be denotations of products being safe, healthy and natural – that is, good for us and the environment.

An example of misleading marketing claims using these terms is soy foam. There are “soy mattresses” and “soy pillows” that are marketed as natural, eco-friendly and renewable. However, only a small percentage of plant-based foams (maximum 20% - typically less than 5%) is actually soy or plant-sourced, with the rest of the ingredients being primarily petrochemical in origin.

Typically, these are lower priced “latex mattress” options and they will be accompanied by broad scope polyurethane foam certifications such as Certipur.

Natural

The term “natural” conjures up images of purity. Unfortunately, this does not match up with what goes behind the production of some mattresses. While some products do contain natural ingredients (e.g., soy and cotton), many times it’s a very small percentage of the overall content and a “natural mattress” could contain high levels of chemical ingredients. Furthermore, the term natural itself can also be manipulated since everything comes from the finite resources created Millennia ago by Mother Nature. Even “natural latex” may contain synthetic latex (SBR derived from petrochemicals) and high levels of natural fillers such as chalk as an ingredient.

Organic

Some mattresses being advertised as organic could feature as little as an organic cotton cover. Even then the cover is often blended with polyester. However, underneath it could be layers of polyurethane foam and other chemical-based, highly processed ingredients.

For a mattress to be truly organic, it needs to be made from at least 95% certified organic materials. The most common certifying agencies for mattress materials are Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) for organic latex and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for cotton. These certifications address not only concerns with raw material sourcing but also the manufacture, fair trade and labour practices and the overall impact of the entire supply chain on the environment.

If a manufacturers bold claims about using organic materials is true, then you can reasonably expect to find these certifications published prominently on their website. When in doubt, avoid the temptation to purchase and ask to see these credentials first.

Other certifications

Not all certifications have the same value when it comes to product labelling in the mattress industry. So, to know what does and doesn’t mean much in terms of health and safety, check out our Blog on Mattress Material Certifications to see what the certifications actually mean.

A note on fire retardants

All mattresses are required by law to contain fire retardants as protection from fire hazards, and we agree that this is an essential safety standard. However, the majority of mattress manufacturers use chemical fire retardants to cut costs.

Some hazardous chemicals found in fire retardants include antimony and decabromodiphenyl oxide, which are all toxic and possible carcinogens. These substances can leach through the layers and through the mattress cover and get absorbed by the skin.

The US and Canada have different standards and mattresses made for the American market often contain much higher levels of fire retardants in their mattresses than those in Canada. More information on fire retardants in Canada can be found in our Blog on Fire Retardants in Mattresses

Health consequences of misleading labels

Mattresses that areincorrectly yet deliberately marketed as earth-friendly, safe, healthy and overall beneficial products can pose health hazards. Their component parts may actually contain dangerous chemicals, such as chemical flame retardants, petroleum, polyurethane foam, formaldehyde, polyols, and others.

Knowing this, can you imagine sleeping at night exposed to these toxins that have been linked to developmental and neurological problems, central nervous system damage, cancer, kidney and liver damage, heart disease, hormonal changes, fertility issues, and other health conditions?

The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act does contain general provisions regarding product safety and false advertising. However, there are no strict and clear guidelines about labelling, so consumers need to arm themselves with research to avoid being misled by greenwashing.


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