What is Greenwashing?
Sustainable products and services have increased exponentially over the last 15 years as the environmental movement has gone mainstream. This new ‘green’ economy might seem like a win for the environment, but companies are taking advantage.
Misleading claims and deceptive marketing tactics are presenting products, services and entire corporations as environmentally friendly, whilst in reality having little to no environmental benefit. This is what has come to be known as greenwashing, its surface level marketing, and its up to us as consumers to learn how to look beyond green labels and superficial claims!
There is no regulation as to what may be called natural, sustainable, green or environmentally friendly. It falls to us as consumers to be less passive and more critical, to research and understand the full consequences of our consumption. This is not an impossible task, just put your green hat on and practice these 5 steps;
How Green Is It? – 5 Steps to Identify Greenwashing
- Identify how a product is being marketed as environmentally friendly.
- Is it a green package? Is it a picture of a leaf or a frog? An ingredient, process, or method of manufacture?
- What type of language is used and are any claims being made?
- Research any claims made.
- Biodiesel is marketed as an eco fuel alternative made from sugar cane and similar crops. Research could uncover that one company might be using waste agricultural product whilst another is clearing rainforests to grow crops cheaply overseas.
- There is also the larger question of how much water and energy it takes to grow, harvest and transport this fuel, as well as the fact that when it is burnt, it still releases co2.
- What percentage of the product is environmentally friendly?
- If the only reason a brand of shampoo is marketed as sustainable is because the bottle is made from 1% recycled materials, you have to decide if this is improving the environment in a meaningful way, or is just a superficial claim to get you to buy the product.
- Is this an ethical company?
- The products we buy are the companies we support. Finding out if a company practices what they preach will require basic research, try to bypass the companies own website and visit third party sources.
- One company might look good on paper, but perhaps it’s owned by a larger corporation who act irresponsibly.
- If a company sells environmentally friendly mattresses, but also standard mattresses, do they really believe in environmental responsibility, are they just trying to capitalise on the green market?
- Where has the product come from?
- The greenest product in the world may not be so green once it is transported to you! Buy local where possible. It is important to also look at the ingredients/materials used. A product may be made or assembled locally, from materials imported across the world.
What do you think? Comment below to share your tips on how to identify greenwashing or post examples of misleading products. Lets spread the word!