By Chloe Blomquist
Sustainability is gaining huge momentum as so many recognise the need to fight against climate change. Brands know this and are trying to release products that match their consumer’s values. It’s great that so many people and brands are spreading this message.
There is one downside to it though and that is greenwashing. Greenwashing is a powerful marketing tactic where companies use language or packaging to make people believe their product is good for the environment.
Put simply, it can be false claims that have no scientific proof or avail of irrelevant arguments. Greenwashing is a marketing method to misdirect their consumers, showing one thing that distracts you from what’s going on.
Companies promote going green or zero waste because it’s “trendy”, they want your money, and feel pressure from customers, employees, shareholders, which results in companies exaggerating their green practices.
Greenwashing comes in many forms. Manufacturers and advertising agencies manipulate consumers through imagery such as leaves, animals, or green packaging. Another way is by misleading product labels that claim their product is “certified” or “100% organic”.
An example of a company that uses greenwashing is Seaworld, which claims they represent a fun, engaging, and stimulating environment for its killer whales when the captive animals lead “unhealthy and despairing lives.”
Another example is SC Johnson, which claims their Windex Vinegar Ocean Plastic bottle is the world’s first window-cleaner bottle made from 100% recycled ocean plastic. The truth is, the plastic ends up in plastic banks in Haiti, the Philippines, and Indonesia, where plastic fills the land and leaks into the ocean, which is known as ocean-bound plastic.
The danger of greenwashing is that it can mislead people into acting unsustainably. If a company claims they’re eco-friendly, you may want to buy their products. If these are false environmental claims, then you’ve accidentally contributed to harming the environment by supporting the company.
Greenwashing takes up valuable space to fight against environmental problems like climate change, plastic ocean pollution, air pollution, and global species extinctions.
Sometimes companies use greenwashing accidentally due to their lack of knowledge on what’s genuinely beneficial for the environment and what isn’t. But, most companies are aware of the damage they’re inflicting on the world.
If companies spent less time pushing their products as “eco-friendly” and spent more time, effort, and energy making their products with alternative materials that have a lower carbon footprint than ‘traditional’ materials, our environment would be much better off.
To avoid being greenwashed, It’s important to get background information on products before purchasing them. By doing your research and gaining as much background information as you can on a product before purchasing it, you’ll understand what you should and shouldn’t buy.
Another way to avoid falling into the greenwashing trap is simply by turning your product over and reading the label. If this claim is true, the label should explain how it meets these assertions.
Lastly, avoid products that say “CFC-free” or “Phosphate-free” since these agents are banned. It is not right for brands to pretend to be sustainable because it is a trend. They should take steps to make their products and operations kinder to the planet.
We are running out of time and with so many brands across the world, they could make a huge difference. You don’t have to take a huge leap, start small by looking at your carbon footprint as a brand and slowly work to reduce it as best you can.
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