What is Green-Washing?
When we think of greenwashing, a distinct image often comes to mind; that of a company promoting itself to be eco-conscious, when our intuition tells us it's anything but. Bonus points if they use the color green, leaves and flowers or soft blues in their branding. We all know of a a company like the one I just mentioned.
Simply put, green-washing is misinformation spread by an organization to present an environmentally responsible public image. Some companies or organizations spend more time and money on marketing themselves as sustainable than they spend on actually being environmentally-friendly.
Red Flags to Look Out For
What signs should you be on the look-out for to determine whether a company is green-washing themselves?
1. Vague language and buzzwords
Words like ‘natural’, ‘bio’, ‘green’ do not equate to environmentally friendly products and companies!
For example, cotton is natural, but regular, non-organic cotton uses large amounts of water, pesticides, and fertilizers, so this product would be considered a natural product, but not an environmentally friendly product.
2. Mass Producers
These companies claim to have environmental commitments but do nothing to reduce production volume. Mass production results in a ton of waste and poor working conditions to meet demands while remaining economically beneficial to the corporate manager. Transportation of mass production also emits enormous amounts of carbon.
3. “Sustainable Collection”
When a company advertises a collection or line is ‘sustainable’, it implies the rest of their production is not sustainable.
4. Counterintuitive Values
Be aware of products that claim to be sustainable but rely on mass production and environmentally harmful products, like plastic. For example, Fiji Water's slogan is “Bottled at the source, untouched by man” but it's mass produced and bottled in plastic that can take up to 450 years to break down.
5. Lack of Transparency
Beware of companies and products that make vague claims or descriptions of environmentally-friendly practices and working conditions. Support companies that give the consumer clear access to their supply chain information.
6. Hidden Parent Company
Many green-washed companies have parents that are anything but sustainable. For example, Love, Beauty, and Planet appears for all intents and purposes to be an environmentally-friendly company. It's minimalistic packaging with flowers and other plants conveys an eco-conscious, environmentally-responsible brand. But in reality, its parent company, Unilever, produces an estimated 70,000 tons of pollution per year (Statista, 2019).
Avoid Falling Victim to Green-Washing!
Look for approved seals such as USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project, Fair Trade Certified, or Rainforest Alliance Certified. Read labels more closely and research companies. Do your research and read from outlets that focus specifically on conservation. Combine all of these practices and you'll be well on your way to becoming a more responsible consumer.
Major greenwashing red flags and how to spot them. Pretty Green Lily. (2021, October 26). Retrieved March 19, 2022, from https://www.prettygreenlily.com/greenwashing-red-flags/
What is greenwashing, and how do you spot it? Business News Daily. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2022, from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10946-greenwashing.html
Schwingle, N. (2020, September 23). 5 ways to spot greenwashing. One Green Planet. Retrieved March 19, 2022, from https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/5-ways-to-spot-greenwashing/
Published by Ian Tiseo, & 10, N. (2020, November 10). Unilever: Annual plastic waste per country 2019. Statista. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1127470/annual-plastic-waste-volume-unilever/