As public concern for the environment grows, consumers are demanding more sustainable products and there is an increasing amount of greenwashing going on.
If you truly care about being eco-friendly, then you should want greenwashing exposed.
In this blog from Aruna, we’re going to answer the question, ‘what is greenwashing?’ and learn what the signs of greenwashing are so you know how to spot and avoid it.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when companies claim to be environmentally conscious but do not actually do anything that contributes to environmental sustainability (or worse, even harm the environment).
This is usually done for marketing purposes so that the company appeals to customers who want to make eco-friendlier choices.
Greenwashing can take many forms, from branding to failing to follow one’s stated corporate values.
What are the Signs of Greenwashing?
You may be wondering how we can spot and avoid greenwashing. Here are five signs of greenwashing to look out for to make sure greenwashing is exposed for what it is: false advertising.
5 Signs to Spot and Stop Greenwashing
1 - Don’t assume buzzwords like “natural”, “green”, biodegradable”, or “eco-friendly” are true
It’s easy for companies to use vocabulary that implies they are more environmentally friendly than they are.
For example, a tour company may call themselves “Green eco-tours” yet use diesel-guzzling vehicles.
Just because a product or service is labelled as “green”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it meets any standards.
Similarly, a company may label its products or packaging as recyclable or biodegradable even though a special process is required that the average person does not have access to.
Also keep an eye out for companies that use images of nature, such as trees, insects, or water.
2 - Look for third-party certifications or labels that support environmental claims
There are now some certifications that can help you verify whether a company is as sustainable as they claim.
Some recognized certifications to be familiar with include the USDA organic certification, Green Seal, Non-GMO, Fair Trade, Certified B Corp., Cradle to Cradle, and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
In addition to looking for labels that support sustainability claims, think about what information a company is not providing.
If a business is emphasizing how environmentally friendly its manufacturing practices are but is silent about its distribution or material sourcing, do they have something to hide?
3 - Beware green marketing claims that conflict with a business's core values or products
In an attempt to appeal to customers who are concerned about environmental impacts, businesses may claim to be environmentally friendly even when their very values or line of goods conflict with sustainability.
An example is a fast-food restaurant marketing any aspect of its operation as "eco-friendly" when it relies on industrial agriculture for its meat supply.
4 - Look out for vague environmental claims that are not backed up by evidence
Anyone can use vague language to imply they are environmentally friendly, but if they can’t explain exactly why or how, then there is probably not much merit to their claims.
Verify whether a product’s packaging or marketing materials include precise facts about how it is environmentally friendly, such as the use of recycled materials or decreased carbon emissions.
5 - Before buying, look into the company's environmental history, including any violations or fines for environmental harm or pollution
It’s worth doing a quick online search to see if a company has any environmental skeletons in their closet.
Check if they have rebranded or done business under any other name, as that may be a sign they are trying to distance themselves from past issues.
Or, perhaps a business claims to be small and sustainable when it is owned by a larger company with unsustainable practices.
Final Thoughts on Exposing Greenwashing
For meaningful change to happen when it comes to reducing human impact on climate and the environment, consumers need to know which companies to support, and which are not doing what they claim to for sustainability.
Please note that the signs of greenwashing mentioned are just that – signs that a company might be greenwashing.
When you notice these signs, you should do some research to determine whether the business is intentionally trying to deceive customers or just needs some external pressure to live their values.
Now that you know the signs of greenwashing to look out for, spread the word to raise awareness so that others can also spot and avoid greenwashing.
With greenwashing exposed, consumers will be better equipped to make choices that truly protect the environment.