From ‘carbon neutral’ flights to ‘net zero’ bottled water, dishonest green PR is on the rise.
Consumer demand for ethical, sustainable businesses is increasing, but some businesses would rather fake it, deceive, or distract us to avoid taking responsibility for their own destructive practices.
Greenwashing refers to the use of deceptive marketing techniques to make their products or practices appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. They make misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company. Portraying a false or exaggerated image of environmental responsibility in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
You can spot greenwashing by the use of vague or undefined terms like “eco-friendly” or “green” without providing any specific evidence or certifications to back up these claims. Greenwashing can also include highlighting a single environmentally friendly aspect of a product or company while ignoring other harmful or unsustainable aspects.
Greenwashing can take various forms, such as:
- Misleading labels and certifications: Using misleading labels, symbols, or certifications that give the impression of environmental responsibility without meeting the required standards.
- Irrelevant claims: Making environmental claims that are true but irrelevant to the product or company in question, distracting consumers from the actual environmental impact.
- Lack of transparency: Failing to provide detailed information about the environmental impact of a product or company, preventing consumers from making informed choices.
- Vague or unverifiable claims: Using general terms or claims without providing specific evidence or verifiable data to support them.
- Exaggerated claims: Making exaggerated or unrealistic claims about environmental benefits that cannot be substantiated or verified.
Businesses that greenwash lock in a harmful social and economic systems that take more from the Earth than we can sustain. It’s a cynical and harmful approach that seeks to deceive consumers, allowing climate criminals to continue getting away with their destructive practices.
What to Look out for
This extract from a Greenpeace article sums up simply what we as consumers can look out for. Ultimately, we have the power to vote with our wallet and choose an alterative. Don’t fall for it!
A Cynical Deception
Greenwashing is a cynical and harmful practice. It can create distrust in brands that genuinely are making a difference. It is fundamentally dishonest, and disingenuous. Businesses using it are duping us. Misleading consumers into purchasing products or supporting companies they believe to be environmentally responsible when in reality, they may not be.
It undermines genuine efforts to promote sustainability and can hinder progress towards a more environmentally conscious society.
A Legal Responsibility
In the UK there is now a legally binding Green Claims Code. You can report greenwashers to Trading Standards, who can take legal action against them: The Green Claims Code checklist – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Call it out. Hold them accountable and clean up the greenwashers for good!