Greenwashing: What is it & why should you care?

greenwashing - cleanbuild

Greenwashing: What is it & why should you care?

The COP26 talks might have ended with commitments from stakeholders around the world—governments, financial institutions, companies, organizations, and others- to limit global temperature to 1.5C. Yet, many observers are keen to see just how these promises are kept.

Now more than ever, big corporations are under pressure to take real, measurable action on their emissions or risk the wrath of activists, investors, and even shareholders.

When you think of how the products and services we rely on have some significant impact on the environment- from production to the end-of-life stage- it becomes clear that corporations, businesses, and brands play a role in driving global climate change.

As much as few companies strive to prioritize environmental sustainability in their business model, there’s still the not-so-little matter of greenwashing which some brands are guilty of.

Though the word is seeing more use in recent times, greenwashing is not a new phenomenon. It is the action of making consumers believe that a product or service offers positive environmental benefits.

Sad to say, some companies have perfected the art of embellishing information on the positive environmental performance of their products/services and concealing information about the negative environmental performance.

Others, who despite being linked to unfriendly environmental practices, spend millions of dollars on PR strategies to change the narrative, influencing public perception about their brand. Both scenarios capture greenwashing in all its false glory.

Why should you care about greenwashing?

Companies use greenwashing to appeal to customers who care about the environment without having to change their corporate practices.

In their typical business-as-usual routine, they prefer to spend far more time and money promoting the “eco-friendliness” of their products than actually ensuring that such products are designed with sustainability in mind.

In the weeks leading up to COP26, a study of advertising found excessive greenwashing by companies across social media platforms.

Greenwashing events are part of a deceptive campaign to make consumers take full responsibility for the products they buy leaving companies causing environmental damage to carry on as usual.

Since nobody likes to be ripped-off, greenwashing can succeed in making you lose money as you are likely to pay more for a so-called eco-friendly product without knowing its true quality.

It’s not easy being green especially at a time when every brand is claiming eco-credentials on the packaging of their products. Kudos to companies that are genuinely building environmentally sustainable products. If you are an eco-conscious individual, here are some ways to immune yourself from greenwashing.

Try not to fall for fancy green words

That a product is labeled ‘green’, ‘recyclable’, ‘eco-friendly’, and so forth does not necessarily make it such. Companies will throw buzzwords around without giving any detail on how they have managed to achieve their claim. This leads to the next step- research!

Do your homework

Since it’s almost a given that any business that is making efforts to reduce its impact on the environment will be happy to disclose it. As such, not finding information to back up a company’s sustainability claim should raise a red flag.

Find out if the company has been involved in any pollution scandal. Also check if the brand has been verified by a third-party, perhaps an environmental agency. If the answers do not add up, it might be time for you to take the next step.

Choose another option

Contrary to what you may think, consumers wield a lot of power. After all, you and only you can make a purchasing decision to buy or not buy a product. When you identify a brand’s subtle or obvious attempts at greenwashing, look for the most sustainable alternative you can afford.

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