Greenwashing exists more prominently now more than ever. We need to learn how to be vigilant. Everyone must be vigilant so as not to fall for false promises.
Trend of Sustainable Shopping
Almost everyone talks and promotes sustainability and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Undeniably, our interests were not merely influenced by the alarming facts we know as we are already experiencing serious problems related to environmental concerns.
According to a Yale University survey released in 2018, 73% of Americans now believe in global warming, an increase of 10% since 2015. Nearly half of Americans believe they are being personally harmed by climate change right now, about 15% higher than in 2015.
Due to the noticeable implications of climate change (e.g. melting glaciers and above normal heat temperature) in every part of the world, several movements have been organized to address this environmental issue. Sustainable living, zero waste movement, plastic-free living, you name it. It’s all rooted in the consciousness of eco-friendly living. Since the first alarming warn of scientists, people started initiating action against what they see as threats to the environment.
That has changed what people value in their consumer goods. A 2019 study by the Global Fashion Agenda found that 75% of consumers around the world view sustainability as extremely or very important.
Holding companies accountable
Climate change leads to the movement of several companies to utilize such an issue into a profitable business strategy. Not only do green business practices open various ventures with environment-enthusiasts, but this also entices and gets the sympathy of the people – even those beyond its target market which entails financial growth.
A recent study shows that 66% of consumers from all over the globe are more than willing to purchase sustainable products without even knowing that these so-called eco-friendly products are actually 98% greenwashed. This phenomenon, greenwashing, deceives consumers by convincing them that it helps in protecting the environment wherein, in fact, there’s no big difference when compared to products made out of harmful components.
But how can you differentiate brands that market themselves as sustainable from those that actually make sustainable products? Sustainability is at the center of market evolution that every brand must attain to meet consumer demand. But as consumers, we are challenged to identify which brands are seriously committed to the sustainability of their products and which ones make more superficial tweaks.
The dizzying mind game of eco-friendly marketing
Eco-friendly marketing is popular but also works like a sneaky snake oil salesman’s tactics. Buzzing labels like “clean,” “natural,” and even “organic” is understandable but deceitful. Such fancy labels are known to shoppers yet a lot of it is scrap.
For starters, the word “natural,” has no direct definition that is agreed-upon by industries.
For such reason, it’s easy to alter one’s attention by focusing on this label instead of inspecting if it’s artificially made and not harmful to natural resources themselves.
Organic products are even trickier to understand. This label can mean three different things. First, it could be 100% organic which means its ingredients are only organically produced. Second, it could have 95% organic matter other than water and salt. Lastly, there’s the phrase “made with organic ingredients,” which means 70% approved ingredients.
Some brands rigorously promote legitimate sustainable products and initiatives such as Lightspeed, Khosla Ventures, 1955 Capital, Patagonia. There are still companies who are self-acclaimed to be “clean”, “natural”, “organic” or “bio-organic” but they do not fully disclose to the public how much of the product’s components can actually help in preserving our sole habitat.
Greenwashing: Companies caught red-handed
Some of the well-known companies that have been caught red-handed are Volkswagen with their “Clean Diesel”. But in fact, they have equipped their cars with defeat devices that can cheat emissions tests and actually produces more air pollution than the limits set by the USA.
Another example is EasyJet “Less CO2” promoting that their planes emits 22% less CO2 than its competitors. However, it was later found out that EasyJet reduces less carbon dioxide because they carry more passengers than a typical airline.
How to know the real deal?
Given that consumers care about sustainability, it makes sense that brands prioritize to market their most eco-friendly products. But buyer beware. Don’t be fooled by trending crystal clear plastic bottles that are made from recycled plastics. Also, there are fashion retailers who claim to recycle the clothes you dump on their bins for a sweet discount the next time you shop. More often than not, they are greenwashing their marketing campaigns.
So how do you begin to glean if a brand considers its entire environmental impact?
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of greenwashing.
1. Do research on the whole brand.
If there’s a brand you’re interested in, go beyond its most-advertised sustainable product. Investigate other group products on the brand’s lineup and make further research to see if they are also sustainably made. Afterward, dig around on the brand’s website to learn more about its processes:
- Does the brand use mostly recycled or biodegradable materials?
- Does the brand carefully study its own carbon footprint and offset emissions?
- Does it allow customers to repair and then eventually recycle products?
- Does it use recyclable packaging materials?
2. Check the About Page of the brand’s website.
Check the About Page of the brand’s website and see if the brand is genuinely committed to sustainability. Evidence could include information about what it has already achieved in sustainable goals. There could be also an elaboration of its plan to reach new goals that focus on the said matter.
3. Do not get fooled by imageries.
One of the common types of greenwashing make use of animals, leaves, and green packaging in the physical aspect of the company’s products to create an impression that they are pro-environmentalists.
Always check the label. Most of the time, when we stumbled upon products with words such as Certified eco-friendly or 100% organic, we are easily attracted to buying it without checking any relevant information that supports such statements. Thus, always check the ingredients, packaging, and do online research on how and where are these products created.
Learn what being eco-friendly means. Just because a famous personality promotes sustainable living, you’d also start patronizing products that this person promotes. It may or may not be greenwashing, but you should not always rely on someone else. It’s important to equip yourself with the proper knowledge to gauge whether or not the companies you’re buying from are actually creating change and awareness among their consumers.
4. Look for companies that encourage consumers to buy fewer items.
Stay away from companies that seem to have planned obsolescence in their products. Cough Apple Cough
Forget fast fashion or fast food. Go for those who sell products good for a lifetime. Go for brands that sell wholesome food without fancy marketing.
5. Call for policy changes.
Contact senators, councilors, and other lawmakers to take action, to pass new legislation, and to ensure transparency in production. Most companies, especially the large and well-established corporations, hide behind trade secrets and disclosure. For far too long they have done this but we can vote for change in policies for the economy with our convictions to lawmakers.
6. Directly contact or make the company know your concerns.
Email the customer service of the company. Fill out the comment section and let a brand or company know about what they’re doing wrong. Keep them accountable by voicing out your own opinions.
Greenwashing has been an effective method for numerous beauty and food industries into thinking that you, like their consumers, are living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Do not easily get hooked with “all-natural” and “sustainable” products and break this illusion by doing thorough background research on how green are these products.