Greenwashing: How to avoid being fooled by deceitful eco-friendly marketing

Greenwashing

Greenwashing. It’s confusing, hard to navigate, and certainly doesn’t involve washing your clothes with green dye. Greenwashing is when a company spends more money, time, and energy on marketing to make sure the public knows they are ‘green,’ than actually working on minimising their environmental impact. Although a green load of washing comes with its problems too, greenwashing comes with even more.

Consumers want to do the right thing, but when greenwashing comes into play, no one knows who to trust! It’s devastating to watch this beautiful wave of conscious consumerism be exploited by money hungry businesses.

If we are clued up on what greenwashing is and aware of how we can successfully avoid being fooled by it, green-washers won’t stand a chance. Find out more on what greenwashing is and how to get clued up on it from Ethically Kate, our expert on how to be eco friendly and avoid greenwashing.

What does greenwashing look like?

You’ve been green-washed the moment you see a green turtle and instantly think the product is amazing for the planet. You’ve also been green-washed the second you hear the word ‘organic’ on an Instagram advertisement and buy 10 ‘organic’ deodorants (without knowing anything else about them), because you want a clear conscience when you swipe your armpits. Although green turtle logos and the word ‘organic’ aren’t bad things, when companies use these marketing tools to mask their polluting or wasteful activities and deliberately mislead their customers, this is greenwashing.

Sometimes greenwashing is completely accidental, but most often it’s a technique companies use to fool conscious consumers and make money instead of making the planet a better place.

Examples of greenwashing

  • Eco imagery e.g. a token dolphin or turtle in their logo, or a green font
  • Extravagant claims e.g. this product will save the planet
  • Vague labels e.g. “certified” without any explanation of the certification
  • Distraction strategies e.g. companies encourage consumers to “look at this cool eco-thing” in efforts to mask other environmentally damaging parts of the business
Green-washers abuse the good intent of conscious consumers who simply want to shop with their values and support companies doing good.
Use the tips below to ensure you are never green-washed and fooled by deceitful eco-friendly marketing again.

Broaden your perspective: think holistically

Just because a company is doing one thing right, doesn’t mean everything else is eco-friendly too. Do you like the sound of the ocean-focused charities they donate to? Dig deeper. What about the ingredients they use? Or the type of packaging they ship their products in? No company is perfect, but it’s important to look at everything the company is doing before you vote with your dollar and purchase from them.

Learn from others: do your research

If you’re unsure about a product and if it’s incredible for the planet or greenwashing you, take advantage of pair reviews and the power of the internet. Google it! Absorbing information from external sources will give you non bias information about the company or the product itself.

SPEAK UP: ASK QUESTIONS

Consumers often underestimate their power to influence a business and miss out on the chance to make a positive impact. Did you know companies exist to serve consumers? A business would love to hear from you! When you next read an ‘about’ page and cannot find the answers you’re looking for, email the company directly.
If you don’t get a timely response, message them on Facebook or Instagram. Hearing answers ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ will allow you to make educated calls around if they’re greenwashing you or are genuinely doing the right thing.

Don’t be ignorant: watch out for sneaky marketing ploys

Often sustainability departments sit alongside the marketing team… Do you see the problem here? When a sustainability manager is directed by the head of marketing, you can bet greenwashing is at play. Most people associate environmental issues with rare animal species, the colour green, and words like ‘nature’. Right? Businesses who greenwash use this to their advantage and weave these symbols, words, and images into their marketing to ensure we think their product or service is great for the environment. Any company can use these types of green-marketing tactics, without actual evidence or certifications that they are doing right by the planet.
With this in mind, do not use the colour of a design, the tone of marketing slogans, or cute little polar bears as a way to conclude if a product or company are putting energy into reducing their impact on the environment.

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