The pandemic has sparked a rise in demand for not just loo roll, but greener products. The lockdowns, social distancing and images of natural disasters have shifted many people’s focus to thinking about helping to create a better, healthier world. It’s triggered a desire for more mindful self-care habits that are both good for your body and the globe. This shift towards sustainability is a positive biproduct of what has been a challenging time for all.
However, navigating the path to greener choices is fraught with deceptive marketing. Often when consumers think they’ve ‘gone green’, what they’ve actually bought is 50 shades of shady (and not really green at all).
It’s time we talked about GREENWASHING.
What is Greenwashing?
It sounds clean and green, but the dirty truth is ‘greenwashing’ is a manipulative sales trick. And it’s very likely happened to you!
The term ‘greenwashing’, (sometimes called ‘cleanwashing’) is when companies spruik their brand/product’s eco credentials, investing more time and money on marketing as “green” rather than actually focusing on truly being sustainable and good for the planet. Making people believe that their company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.
Whilst some greenwashing is unintentional and results from a lack of understanding of what sustainability is, many times it’s embedded into the marketing/ PR strategy as a way to chase the green dollar whilst avoiding actually making the product better for the environment.
How to identify greenwashing …
As companies around the world surf the “green sustainable wave”, how can we spot the greenwash amongst a sea of brands?
Firstly, you can check out the common ways that companies pull the green wool over our collective eyes from outright lying, through to making claims with no scientific proof.
North American marketing firm, Terra Choice has defined *7 sins of greenwashing:
- Giving no proof
- False certification labels
- Hiding environmental trade offs
- Simply being the lesser of two evils
Greenwashing by nature is sneaky and so learning about it can feel a little overwhelming. And I hear you, you’re busy already with a massive life admin list. Even learning about greenwashing is a good first step. (well done)!
Whilst you are rushing down the aisles in the supermarket or when clicking on your digital shopping cart, have a think about the following tips:
- Read the label – Bypass the packaging of green leaves and cute animals and read the label. Go direct to the info that counts. The first ingredient on the list makes the majority of the product.
- Research – Before you go shopping, make a list of what you need and products you know are trustworthy. This way it will be less likely to be lured in by all the eco marketing tricks. And if a company’s marketing claims can’t be backed up with specific details or they are vague, then it’s most likely rubbish.
- Ask Questions – Don’t be afraid to email brands to ask questions. They might have sustainable practices that you don’t know about.
Greenwashing has serious ripple effects. It can prevent real green change. It makes it harder for truly green products to differentiate themselves and it takes up space in the fight against significant environmental issues like climate change.
We can all be change agents to create a future that we are excited about living in. Learning about greenwashing and making better choices help us in the journey towards a healthier planet.
The process of spotting greenwashing takes time, practice, patience and a little help from your friends who can share their insights on brands that are truly green and trustworthy.
Celebrate the brands that are doing a good job, who want to make a difference to the planet and to our bodies like WOTNOT.
Learn. Choose well. Pass it on.
Contributor - Marianne Randall