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 eco-friendly lifestyle.
According to a Yale University survey released last year, 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 visible implications of climate change (e.g. melting glaciers and above normal heat temperature) in every parts of the world, several movements have been created in order to address this environmental issue. Sustainable living, zero waste movement, plastic-free living, you name it. It’s all galvanizing into a consciousness of eco-friendly living. More than ever since the first time scientists warned of global warming, people are taking action against what they see that endangers the environment.
That has changed what people value in their consumer goods. A just-released 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 lead for several companies to utilize this issue into a profitable business strategy. Not only do green business practices open various ventures with environment-enthusiasts, such campaign entices and eventually gets the sympathy of its audience, even beyond its target market, that will be favorable in the financial growth of these companies.
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 phenomena, greenwashing, deceives consumers into thinking that they are helping protect the environment when it’s no different from acquiring products made from harmful contents and materials.
But how can you tell the difference between brands that market themselves as sustainable and ones that actually make sustainable products? It is the fundamental point of market evolution that brands are slowly becoming sustainable to meet consumer demand. But we consumers are now challenged to see which brands commit seriously to sustainability, and which ones make more superficial tweaks.
The dizzying mindgame of eco-friendly marketing
Eco-friendly marketing is popular but also works like a sneaky snake oil salesman’s tactics. Many buzz around labels like “clean,” “natural,” and even “organic”. But unknown to shoppers, lot of it is bullshit.
For starters, the word “natural,” has no direct definition that is agreed-upon by industries. This makes it easy to slap the label on products that might not be naturally made or might cause harm 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 is only organically produced ingredients. Second, it could have 95% organic matter other than water and salt. Lastly, there’s the phrase “made with organic ingredients,” which is 70% approved ingredients.
There are brands that rigorously promotes legitimate sustainable products and initiatives such as Lightspeed, Khosla Ventures, 1955 Capital, Patagonia. But there are still companies who are self-acclaimed to be “clean”, “natural”, “organic” or “bio organic”. They do not fully disclose to the public how much of the ingredients or materials of their products can actually help in preserving our sole habitat.
Greenwashing: Companies caught red-handed
Some of well-known companies that have been caught red-handed are Volkswagen with their “Clean Diesel” when 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 want 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 plastic. Or fashion retailers that 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 whether a brand considers its entire environmental impact?
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim to greenwashing.
1. Do research on the whole brand.
If there’s a brand you’re interested in, go beyond its most-advertised sustainable product. Pick a couple other products on the brand’s lineup and research them to see if they are also sustainably made. Then 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. If a brand is serious about its commitment to sustainability, it will share specific information about what it has already achieved, and when it hopes to reach new goals.
3. Do not get fooled by imageries.
One of the common types of greenwashing includes usage of animals, leaves, and green packaging by companies to create an impression that they are pro-environment.
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 into buying it without checking any relevant information that supports such statements. Thus, always check the ingredients, packaging, and do an online research of 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 doing it by purchasing products that this person promotes. It may or may not be green washing, but you should equip yourself with proper knowledge to gauge whether or not the companies you’re buying from are actually creating change and awareness among their consumers.
- Look for the companies which encourage consumers to buy less 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.
- Call for policy changes.
Contact senators, councilors, and other lawmakers to take action, to pass new legislations 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 with our convictions for lawmakers that change policies in the economy.
- Contact or make the company know your concerns directly.
Email the customer service of the company. Fill out a 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, as their consumers, are living in an eco-friendly lifestyle. Do not easily get hooked with “all natural” and “sustainable” products and break this illusion by doing a thorough background research on how green are these products.