Greenwashing companies are clever. Using marketing ploys and advertising techniques, they can easily manipulate consumers into believing their products are green. Savvy customers need to know what to look out for.
One of the reasons greenwashing is so convincing is because of the unchecked use of terms like ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’. There are no legal definitions of terms like these which allows companies to use them as they like, without having to provide proof to back them up.
To separate green products from greenwashing, look for facts and data to back up these terms. If a product is labelled ‘natural’, look for the ingredients that substantiate this claim. If a company claims sustainability, ignore them unless they outline how exactly their operations or materials are sustainable.
Even the term ‘organic’ should be questioned. If a product genuinely contains organically grown materials, they will have the certifications to back it up! And make sure you know your certifications. Some companies make up their own certifications and plaster them across their products when in reality, these endorsements are meaningless.
Another greenwashing tactic involves using complicated jargon or meaningless expressions that only experts could understand. These companies rely on confusing customers so that they don’t know exactly what they are buying and assume its ‘greenness’ from images and packaging.
It’s not just language that pedals greenwashing. Brands will also use suggestive images, labelling and product naming to evoke a green and environmentally responsible façade. It’s important to look beyond the marketing of a product and find the facts.
When considering whether a product is greenwashed, it helps to look at the overall behaviour of the company selling it. If it seems strange that an oil company is selling ‘sustainable’ products, that’s because it is! The products are an attempt to stay in public favour without having to do any real work towards sustainability.
You can spot the greenwashing of a company or brand by looking at the reasons behind their actions. If a company does a grand gesture to benefit environmental causes, are they doing it because they care or because they want to hide their environmental impact? Similarly, are environmental decisions made proactively or are they done for selfish reasons like keeping their customer base pleased?