In recent years, there has been an increase in demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products. As a consequence, big brands are taking advantage of this new demand as they are greenwashing all of their marketing initiatives.
Greenwashing or “Green Sheen”: “the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound”.
In other words, a company’s unsubstantiated claims that deceive customers into believing that their products are more environmentally friendly. Think of labels that say “recycled materials” or “energy saving benefits” or “environmentally friendly”. Really it is just labels and packaging that companies use to trick consumers into believing that they are actually reducing their environmental impact with their products.
So many companies can get away with greenwashing because it is largely unregulated by any governing body. So they’re not really going to get in trouble for making false claims, but yet their sales skyrocket so why wouldn’t they continue this deceiving trickery?
There are many ways that companies can use greenwashing, but a few of the most popular are as follows:
- Environmental Imagery/ Mottos/ Slogans: using images of leaves, animals, the colour green, and mottos or slogans that evoke an idealistic view of the product in terms of it being environmentally friendly and sustainable.
- Perception of legitimacy: companies will focus on a minute detail that they blow up and make big claims about, but will deflect from some of the larger environmental impacts. For example, big clothing brands might claim to be using recycled materials for their garments, but they will ignore the exploitation of the people who are producing these clothes, or the toxic emissions produced by the facilities that manufacture the items.
- Misleading Labels: “certified”, “100% organic” or anything of the sort, is often self - created and self-declared. Anyone can slap those labels on their products and no one is really going to look into it.
- Irrelevant Claims: many companies will stick claims on their products that say things such as “free from [insert chemical name here]” meanwhile that specific chemical wouldn’t even be in their product anyway but saying it isn’t in there, and banking on the fact that the general public isn’t great at chemistry, makes their product look superior to others.
- Display of Complex Data: companies will throw out words and numbers and figures that the average customer wouldn’t understand but on a surface level seems like it is accentuating the “sustainability” or “eco-friendliness” of the company.
These are just a few common examples of greenwashing. But there are big marketing companies paid millions of dollars to deceive consumers into purchasing products that they claim are environmentally friendly, but in reality are quite the opposite. As consumers, it is our responsibility to know where our products come from. It is our responsibility to seek out products that we are confident are environmentally friendly. Do your research, ask a trusted source, trust your gut. You are a lot smarter than these marketers and big companies think you are!