Are You Being Greenwashed?

Global warming, climate change, deforestation, rising sea levels, animal extinctions – these are just a few of the environmental disasters humans have caused. In the last decade or so, society seems to have finally woken up to the damage we’ve caused to the planet, and it’s a race against time to try and save it from its doomed future.

Recently there’s been a push for recycling and renewable energy sources, as well as a trend for ‘green’ products and conscious consumerism. But unfortunately, where there is capitalism, you can be sure that businesses will do what they can to jump on any movement or trend – even if that means manipulating the public. It seems like all brands these days are passionate about the environment and ensuring all their products and services are ethical and green. But how many are actually greenwashing their consumers?

Many companies have noticed a switch in consumer behaviour, and started to market their products and services in a way which puts them in a much greener light. This is the process of greenwashing – appearing to be an ethical, sustainable and responsible company, with an interest in the environment. Some businesses even claim to put the environment and ethical standards above profit. But how can you check the green credentials of a company to make sure they aren’t exaggerating their environmental status? Don’t be fooled by the following:

Green packaging

Many companies use imagery and colour psychology to emphasise a product’s eco-friendliness. An image of a forest, a green logo and the use of words such as ‘green’ ‘all-natural’ and ‘biodegradable’ could be warning signs of greenwashing. These can subconsciously trick consumers into presuming the product was ethically produced, but in essence these unverified claims are vague and can be applied to all sorts of products, regardless of how they were manufactured.

If you can’t find exact information about how a product was sourced, why it is sustainable or what part of the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable, then you’re better off believing it’s not the whole truth.

What the business says

Businesses have PR gurus, marketing teams and sales experts to put a spin on everything. Try not to be naive and believe everything a company says about itself, its products and its reputation. Of course businesses will big themselves up to win over new customers; that’s why it’s better to read what other trusted sources have to say about a business. Do some research, find out what other organisations or influential figures have to say about manufacturers or products. This way you’re much more likely to uncover out the truth.

How to Avoid Greenwashing

Chances are, you’ve already been greenwashed at least once, with the best intentions of choosing an eco-friendly product or service. Don’t believe the hype – most environmentally friendly claims (or ethical, animal friendly claims etc) should be able to be backed up by official organisations. For example, unless a product is certified organic, don’t believe that every ingredient is organic. Unless a product is certified Fairtrade, don’t believe that it was made ethically at every step of the production without child labour or exploitation. If purchasing paper or timber products, ensure it is from a sustainable source with an accreditation such as F#C.

The next thing you can do to check out a company’s real intentions is to take a look at what they do besides producing and selling things. What can you find out about the founder of the company, do they take an active interest in environmental issues? Does the business support a social or environmental charity? What sort of articles do they share on their blog and social media? If the business wants to not only improve its own energy efficiency and sustainability practices, but also encourages its customers to do the same, then it’s likely you are not being greenwashed.

The founder of Empatika is a prime example of a businessman with clear intentions and a passion for eco business and eco living. He does everything he can to ensure Empatika’s products and services are sustainable, and offers a number of different eco furniture options for clients. The company supports WWF’s Save Forests campaign, as well as donating money to rainforest conservation organisations and planting trees on behalf of customers. Aside from running the company, Tristan is an environmental activist, has his own personal website and writes for a number of guest blogs.

Remember, if you can’t find any further evidence of green business practices other than ambiguous claims on the label, chances are they aren’t genuine. Keep hunting for the eco-friendly choice!