The more consumers are trained in sustainability and demand transparency from companies, the more companies strive to prove that they are sustainable and reliable. Many companies claim that they are sustainable and green, which makes it difficult for consumers to identify the reliability of these claims. That's why we decided to dedicate this week's blog post to greenwashing - one of the most alarming issues in a sustainable society.
greenwashing is a deceptive marketing strategy used by brands to deceive their customers about how their business, products and / or services affect the environment. Greenwashing occurs when companies try to make themselves or their goods sound more environmentally friendly or environmentally safe than they actually are so that consumers think they are ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly.However, greenwashing is not a new concept. If you have stayed in a hotel before, do you know the signs in the bathroom about reusing towels to save the environment? It turned out that this is a profit-saving tactic for hotels rather than an environmentally-saving aspect. "Greenwashing" as a term was first introduced 30 years ago in response to this hotel sign.
What falls under Greenwashing? These are unconfirmed claims and companies' misleading green images to prove that their product is completely natural, environmentally friendly and safe. Companies usually build specific marketing strategies and organize events to show how their companies are committed to caring for the environment.
According to a study carried out by the European Commission, 42% of online advertising of green and environmentally friendly products was false or misleading. Design, colors, key phrases, irrelevant claims and misleading statistics are all strategies that companies use to entice consumers by making them believe that the product is better for the earth than it really is.
But do not be harsh with yourself. It's hard to identify true sustainability heroes from fake ones, but it's not impossible! Here are some tips for beginners on how to avoid greenwashing:
1. Details are important
It is important to look for as many details as possible when brands make statements about their environmental friendliness. It is not enough for a brand to say that something, for example, is made of "durable fabric". Check which fabric it really is. For example, some fashion brands claim to use vegan leather when in fact they use toxic petroleum-made PVC. They are not lying - it is vegan, but it is not sustainable at all.
2. Look at the company's "About" and "Sustainability Pages".
You can learn a lot about what a brand does or does not do by popping into their About pages. Again: the more specific the better! Photos, videos, certifications and / or evidence of audits are also good things to be aware of. If it's a major brand, look for a sustainability report that describes their environmental impact and the progress they are making. Are the brand's sustainability measures or goals specific? How do they hold themselves accountable for these goals? How regularly do they publish their progress? Have they reached their previous goals? What kind of investment in resources (time and money) do they make to achieve these goals?
Ambiguity is quite often used by companies as a marketing tactic to try to make consumers believe that their brand is green. By using vague statements and words like "completely natural" that are so broad that they can be misinterpreted to give an environmentally friendly image of the brand.
4. Hidden tradeoffs
A brand can hide an even bigger issue behind its green curtain - and it's not always strictly environmentally friendly. An example is when solid fashion brands promote separate recycled or sustainable clothing lines, but then do not reveal that the clothes are developed through exploitative or not so environmentally friendly conditions.