How to detect and avoid greenwashing

The ‘green movement’ has brought out the worst and best in some people. You are probably familiar with the term ‘greenwashing’. Wikipedia defines greenwashing as a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly and therefore ‘better’; appeal to nature. Sometimes called “green sheen”.

Investopedia defines it as the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. … Greenwashing is a play on the term “whitewashing,” which means using misleading information to gloss over bad behavior.

Regardless of how it’s defined, greenwashing is not beneficial for you and I. To avoid being duped by companies that are known for greenwashing, or better yet; companies not known for greenwashing; we need to buy waste-free and plastic-free products from companies that stand behind their mission and actually do what they say they will do! But how do we find those companies?

As a life-long entrepreneur, I enjoy reading websites like Feeddough.com that come from the business perspective and their article on What Is Greenwashing? – Types & Examples was eye-opening for me as a buyer even though I feel like a seasoned eco-consumer. Marketing is a skill and some people (and companies) are just really good at it…in evil ways! According to the article, 66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands. This, even though is good news, has led to the creation of an atmosphere of suspicion among the customers as according to a report by  TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, 98% of green-labelled products are actually greenwashed.

It would appear that the more we want to know how and where to buy sustainable brands, the more marketers emerge to try and confuse us, or worse, flat out lie to us! 

Ever bought a product because of how the packaging looks? I have. Probably one of the biggest red flags to identify greenwashing is green-colored packaging with pictures of trees and nature on it and nothing to back it up. Green color doesn’t mean something is really green or eco or even good for the environment. Don’t be fooled!

Do you remember ‘Dieselgate’ back in 2015? That is when Volkswagen released a huge ad campaign about how their diesel technology was better and led to reduced diesel pollutants. BUSTED! Later, the truth was revealed that Volkswagen rigged 11 million of its diesel cars to be sold in America with “defeat devices,” a technology that tells the car it is being tested, allowing their cars to cheat the emissions tests so they would show reduced amounts of emitted pollutant levels. Only after they got caught in their lie did they admit to totally screwing up. Big ad campaigns can also be a warning. Sometimes a company spends more money trying to ‘convince’ you of their green practices instead of spending the money on making their product more eco-friendly. 

So when big companies with big ad budgets can dupe us into thinking we are choosing an eco-product or more sustainable option, how can we really know the truth? That’s a tough question. 

One of my favorite people in the green movement is Kathryn Kellogg. She walks the talk. She did a great article ‘showing’ ads do greenwashing. I’m a big believer in a picture tells a 1,000 words so please check out her article at Going Zero Waste

Certifications are another way to shop for brands true to their nature. Let a third party verify their products or practices for you. Don’t get me wrong, not all certifications are legit. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up article about that if you’re interested. Comment below and let me know.

I can tell you from personal experience with my company, each year all my suppliers must sign a form confirming they do no animal testing in order for me to get my recommitment approved from Leaping Bunny. So when I see their logo, I can be sure that the company does no animal testing.

No brand is perfect but some are trying more than others so ask questions. Contact the brand you’re interested in and ask about their practices. When a  brand is willing to answer your questions and provide you some details, that’s really great! I love it when people contact me and ask questions. That type of engagement is exciting for any company who is truly trying to make the world a better place. They really do appreciate it when people appreciate their efforts.

Do you have any suggestions for me on how to avoid greenwashing? I would love to hear from you. I’ve been duper before because I want to believe what people are telling me. I refuse to stop trusting all brands because of a few bad apples. Greenwashing is real but the more we share good brands and buying strategies with each other, the better off we are and fewer sales go to the bad companies. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *