Greenwashing: What it is & how to avoid it

Consumers have become increasingly interested and aware of the damaging effects our daily consumption habits are having on our environment and planet which has led to growing consideration with daily purchases - YAY

This mindset shift is incredibly positive however, marketing hype combined with limited industry regulations has led to consumers falling victim to corporate 'Greenwashing' a growing area of exploitation of consumers care for ethical processes and nature for their own financial gain,

What this ultimately means is large corporations, with big marketing budgets, are able to easily target consumers who are keen to become more 'Green' with their not so Eco-friendly or sustainable products.

The great news is so many businesses typically smaller businesses are going above and beyond in order to be as sustainable and Eco-friendly as possible, truly caring for our environment and ensuring they reduce their carbon footprint and although large corporations are less honest in this space, we hope that they are starting to follow suit and take steps in the right direction...

The moral of the story here is that corporate 'Greenwashing' is not cool and for consumers that really want to make an impact and live more Eco-friendly and sustainably they need to be more wary. Below will be discussing 'What is Greenwashing?' 'The Difference between Greenwashing and Green Marketing? and What to look out for when purchasing environmentally friendly and genuinely ethical products and brands?

What is Green Washing?

Greenwashing is a deceptive form of marketing that claims a company’s products, policies and goals are environmentally friendly and therefore do less damage to nature, with an underlying purpose to increase profits with false claims unbeknown to the consumer.

A good indication that a corporation is partaking in Greenwashing is when a marketing campaign promoting so called Eco-friendly products has actually cost them more time and money than they have spent on the very environmentally friendly practices they are preaching.

Another aspect of Greenwashing to be wary of as a consumer is when brands and corporations look for alternative materials to be able to promote innovative thinking, Eco-friendly alternatives and 'Natural' initiatives without considering the bigger carbon footprint often associated with such materials compared with more 'traditional' materials.

For example: Supermarkets were very quick to jump on the Eco-friendly bandwagon and interest in reducing single-used plastics by offering more durable, 'bags for life' that the consumer pays more for with the intention of reusing them over and over again. In reality these bags take twice as long to decompose (if they ever actually do) and use more petroleum to create and thus pose an even greater threat to wildlife.

A far greater perhaps less profitable alternative would be for these supermarkets to stop wrapping their products in single-use plastics, stop selling 'micro' versions of their products and stop selling single-use plastic products!

Greenwashing vs Green Marketing?

Now not all businesses have this backwards and unethical way of thinking and there are brands and businesses that truly are doing everything they can to be more environmentally friendly with both their products and processes, so what is the difference between Greenwashing and Green Marketing?

In simple terms Green Marketing is where a brand markets products that genuinely have environmental benefits. Combining environmentally beneficial products with transparent and enriching campaigns alongside consistent social awareness and environmental purpose and care should give you confidence in the brand and their true environmental ethics.

Some great examples of a brands that do this really well are Lush, The Body Shop and Patagonia

By being honest, transparent and open about your processes and how exactly you are working towards being as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible alongside areas you can improve on really empowers customers to be able to make a choice with who they shop with.

Here is a rough checklist and what to question or look out for when evaluating the environmental impact and social ethics of a brand:

- Do they have certification and can provide evidence to support their claims?
- Can they provide evidence of their social responsibilities and ethical working environments?
- Are they consistent with their Green Marketing or does it seem more reactive to 'trends' then proactive to making change?
- How much of their business do they dedicate to being environmentally friendly, is it a full 360 degree effort or just partial? for example Primark or H & M bringing out ‘recycled’ ranges yet it’s abundantly clear they this is not part of their whole business model.

What we recommend and suggest thinking about when questioning the true morals, ethics and sustainable measures a brand is taking to be truly more Green are:

  • Do your research and test brands to prove their certification to evidence their claims

  • Question the 360 degree environmental impact of the brands and business you support, Is it just a one time product of change or are they consciously making positive changes throughout the business that they can prove?

  • Are they consistent with their messaging and environmental support? Or is it just following ‘trends’ for financial gain?

  • Do they give back to communities and charities who support our planet and social responsibilities?

  • Are their processes ethical and humane throughout production and beyond?

  • What is the environmental impact of their 'environmental decisions' i.e is their more cost to the carbon footprint of using 'natural' materials compared with more 'traditional' materials.

  • Very importantly ensure you understand their transparency BOTH with how they are trying and where they are excelling as ultimately, no business is perfect but if they are actively trying throughout the business - Change is possible.


    Find out more about SOS environmentally friendly and ethical practices here

October 09, 2020 — Bronte Simm