What is greenwashing?
You’ve probably heard of greenwashing before. You'd be forgiven for thinking that greenwashing is a good thing (it has the word 'green' in it after all!) but you'd be mistaken. We're here to bring to your awareness this form of dishonest and misleading marketing that companies are incorporating into their strategy more and more.
In short, greenwashing is when companies and brands market themselves as eco-friendly / sustainable / environmentalist / ethical / green - but fail to live up to those standards in practice. Such companies tend to overdo it when trying to fool the public that they are eco-friendly . This is becoming a particular problem now, with the rise of digital and social media marketing - things are not always as they seem.
Culprits can be found particularly in industries where there is a community of genuinely eco-friendly companies, including:
Hygiene and personal care products
Personal home cleaning products
Trendy / Honest?
While it is fortunate for many companies that being sustainable is now ‘trendy’, not-so sustainable companies are latching onto this trend un-deservingly. These types of companies' intentions are not about caring for the environment and making their practices green; they are instead to reap the rewards of looking like a sustainable brand.
In reality, there are certain industries that cannot fake sustainability, due to the nature of their service. For example, sustainable energy can only be marketed as such, if it really is sustainable. However in an industry such as the fashion industry, greenwashing can be very prominent - specifically in fast fashion. The very essence of fast fashion goes against every type of eco-friendly practice out there, therefore fast fashion brands that deem themselves as ethical are participating in pure greenwashing. Scandal. We are NOT impressed.
How can we spot greenwashing?
Spotting greenwashing can be a little bit tricky, however, there are a few tell tale signs.
OVERDOING THE GREENERY
We mean green imagery, green colours, green themes, nature, nature, nature. When presented with such, we must ask ourselves "but how are these claims supported?" A good measure is to usually have a look for genuine certifications and to check the ingredients list / clothes labels, to actually see what the product is made of instead of letting the aesthetic sway us.
The next tip we can give you is to analyse the claims. A lot of the time, brands that 'greenwash' make meaningless and generic claims such as: ‘earth-friendly’, ‘plant-based’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘reusable’ ‘clean’. Sometimes when we're in a rush, trying to manage efficiently buying products and making it home from work in one piece during rush hour, it's likely that we don’t have the time, patience, or energy for an in-depth analysis' of the grocery store shelves every single time – which happens, so please don’t be too hard on yourself (just focus on not screaming at anybody on public transport).
However, it helps to familiarise ourselves with which claims / sustainability labels seem fishy, and which ones we trust more, this saves us time, and our guilty conscience. The thing with sustainability and trying to make environmentally responsible purchasing decisions a habit / lifestyle, is that it can become overwhelming, you might feel like you have to do everything perfectly, otherwise it doesn’t count, maybe that your efforts are not enough. THAT IS NOT THE CASE. Any little thing you can do to help, will make a difference. It’s not a race or a competition, it’s a responsibility. To cut to the chase, the labels shown below are some examples of what we would sniff out as fishy / not entirely reliable:
This is not to say that products containing these types of labels are 100% 'greenwashers', it's simply a good idea to be a little more critical and to analyse the company's claims slightly further.
How do we spot honest eco-marketing?
We’re not here to name any names. However, we would like to introduce you to types of labels that are used when the company can back their sustainability claims. By becoming familiar with these, it will save you time and increase your confidence when trying to shop responsibly. Some examples are the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) for cotton, or the Fairtrade label for lots of products, including cosmetics, food, etc. Realistically, nobody can be sure of all of the technicalities of materials, chemicals, colours, etc. that are sustainable / not sustainable (unless they're superhuman or they have religiously studied the art of sustainability, in which case please contact us email@example.com, we'd love to hear more from you) – the lingo associated with 'greenwashing' is designed to confuse us.
One way you can get further insight into a brand's sustainability claims is if you go to the company's ‘About Us’ page. If what you find here is decently specific, great news! If you seem to see gaps in information or extensive green imagery, the more doubtful you should be. The labels below are examples of what you should be looking for: very specific and descriptive, they are usually a reliable sign of true sustainability as the brand is backing up their claims with some evidence. Always look for further information if you still feel unsure or uncomfortable with purchasing something.
What is the solution?
Anyway, this blog post isn’t about trying to lecture you or to make you scribble pages of notes in a desperate desire to memorise the rules of greenwashing. Greenwashing has no official rights or wrongs, but it is a problem because of its deception to consumers, which is against most companies' ethics; and in the long-term, because it's misleading consumers to purchase products that are damaging to the earth and to themselves. It just slows down or even hinders our transition into a circular economy and sustainability as normal, but the more aware we become, the easier it is for us to avoid being 'greenwashed'.
Our blog is officially about to come alive! As you all may know we launched PETRA during the pandemic, and some things have proven difficult for us, as they have for the rest of the world, but we are now officially on a roll! In the coming months, this blog will focus on all things environmentalism, music, fashion, sustainable brands, etc. The way we can help you is by us writing to inform, review and recommend certain products for you, whether they be fashion, personal care, etc.
We will write about necessary and relevant topics to keep you guys in the loop! In turn, this will make it easier for you to become familiar with actually sustainable, sustainable brands – very soon you'll all be walking into stores and picking up all the correct items on your upcoming grocery / fashion hauls, effortlessly! Stay tuned…