You may have noticed lately that you’re seeing more and more companies branding themselves as “eco-friendly”, “green” or “sustainable”, but have you ever wondered just how true these claims are?
Some companies and organisations mislead their consumers by making them believe that their products or services environmentally friendly, when in reality they aren’t. This is known as greenwashing, and it’s more common than you may think.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that was first developed in the 1980s. Back then, companies could get away with making unsubstantiated claims about “greener” products or how they were protecting the environment. People are now much more aware of how important a sustainable lifestyle is, and companies often try to capitalise on this by changing their branding to imply they are doing more than they really are.
There are plenty of modern examples of this too: beauty industry brands like Tarte Cosmetics and The Body Shop have been accused of greenwashing, and BMW recently promoted an electric car as “zero-carbon” despite the offering the option of buying the model with a petrol engine. In 2008, Nestlé ran an ad campaign that told consumers about how bottled water was the most “environmentally-responsible” product they could purchase – despite the massive amount of plastic used in its production.
So how can you spot green-washing?
- Check for verification: check for the certification of facts and figures for the claims a company is making. If they really are doing what they say they are, it should have been verified by an environmental auditing body.
- Research the company: check who is really making the products, and what the host company who makes those products is doing to improve their sustainability. For example, it’s no good buying chocolate with recyclable wrapping from a company that promotes single-use water bottles!
- Keep an eye out for green buzzwords: watch out for words or phrases used by a company without justification about how they supposedly achieved that status. For instance, “natural” doesn’t exactly mean eco-friendly, it just means that the product contains natural resources like cotton, which have been grown using damaging chemicals and pesticides. “Vegan leather” might not contain any animal skins, but it will most likely contain plastic in its place.
Ask questions & Call it out!
- If you do spot greenwashing, why not hold companies and businesses accountable. The more you question company’s practices, the more it will provoke change and inspire others to do the same!