Are You Being Greenwashed ? Find Out About Greenwashing and How To Avoid It

Greenwashing (image credit : ChangeMakr Asia)
As sustainability becomes more important to consumers, going green is becoming a profitable business strategy to appeal to them. But is this really a genuine reform or just gimmicky campaigns ? Find out here. 
Over the past few years, the general public have become more aware and much more passionate about climate change and sustainability.  People are looking at changing their lifestyle and spending habits to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Companies and picking up on this too. 
From electric cars to reusable shopping bags, it’s undeniable that “going green” is one of the fastest growing trends out there today. This is great news for the eco-friendly consumer, as companies are scrambling to offer greener versions of their products to meet demand. Unfortunately, many companies have also noticed that it’s much cheaper to claim to have environmental, health or safety standards than it is to actually live by them. It’s cheap to practice greenwashing than working diligently to do less harm to people and planet! 

What is greenwashing ?  

Greenwashing is when brands use marketing techniques to persuade you believing their products are ‘green’ and good for you. It is an initiative or activity that falsely leading consumers to believe that a brand’s products or policies are ethically or environmentally friendly. They choose eco-conscious language, earthy packaging and imagery that suggest and relate to ‘clean’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’, green to promote and market themselves appearing more environmentally conscious than they actually are. Upon closer investigation these brands are not actually aligned with their green claims and are doing very little to reduce their social environmental impact

How to Spot Greenwashing ? 

Watch out for these seven greenwashing tricks that commonly use by businesses and brands to persuade consumers  believe their products are ‘green’ and ‘good for you’ : 
1. using unsubstantial claims   
‘Natural”, ‘green’, or ‘organic’ – have you heard all these common terms written on the product packagings ? Using terms that are too broad or poorly defined to be properly understood (i.e., an “vegan leather” is often has plastic ingredients that are  harmful ingredients for the environment, if not worse that leather production).
2. Hidden Trade offs   
Labelling a product as eco-friendly based on certain aspects of their products (example : organic cotton, recycled materials) while ignoring the larger environmental cost ( example : energy use of manufacturing, landfills, gas emissions, etc). 
3. Zero proof    
Making an environmental claim without providing easily accessible evidence on either the label or the product website (i.e., a light bulb is touted as energy efficient with no supporting data).
4. Lesser of Two Evils    
Labelling a product as eco-friendly based on certain aspects of their products (example : organic cotton, recycled materials) while ignoring the larger environmental cost ( example : energy use of manufacturing, landfills, gas emissions, etc). 
Claiming to be greener than other products in its category when the category as a whole may be environmentally unfriendly (example : plastic ziplock ‘evolve’ line that claims t use ‘less plastic’ while we are questioning why use plastic wrap at all when there are so many alternatives ? ).
5. Irrelevant Claims      
Stating something that is technically true but not a distinguishing factor when looking for eco-friendly products (example, advertised as “CFC-Free”—but since CFCs are banned by law this is unremarkable)
6. Using Wrong Labels       
Implying that a product has a third-party endorsement or certification that doesn’t actually exist, often through the use of fake certification labels. 
The best way to know what to buy is to look for Third Party Certification, such as : 
  • The Soil association
  • EcoCert
  • The Green Seal
  • FSC (for paper and wood)
  • LEEDS (for homes)
  • The Leaping Bunny (for Cosmetics)
7. Using Misleading green images, color or names       
Interestingly, this is probably the most common trick, which makes it difficult to know who to trust ! keep an eye out for pictures of trees,  leaves, animals,  nature scenes, green colors on labels or packagings. Nor do names of labels such as ‘green’, ‘organic’, ‘bio’, ‘enviro’ or eco before name or brand. 
Whenever you encounter this and doubt about it, check the label ! 

How to tell if it’s the real deal ?  

If you re not sure whether a brand is using greenwashing as their marketing technique (a.k.a gimmicky campaigns) you can find and ask them these three critical questions :
1. How many of their products are sustainable / ethical ? 
Look out whenever you see “Shop our sustainable collection” and ask “why just one collection ? why not ALL of it ? “
If the answer is less than half the brand is not really an eco-conscious brand. 
2. What is their story ? Why do they care ? 
Find out if the brand genuinely care about the environment ? are they being consistent and honest ? Do their sustainability claims align with their products ? 
3 How transparent are they with information on their production, materials, policies ? 
What materials are they using and how are they are taking steps to be more environmentally conscious ? Ps : if these answers are not easily available on their website, chances are the brand is being dishonest…
As consumers, don’t be afraid to ask questions if  something is unclear. Take words / slogans / labels and packaging with a grain of salt – dive deeper, do your research. 
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