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What is Greenwashing?

Simply put, Greenwashing is the false pretence that a business is acting sustainably. Businesses can disguise Greenwashing very well, with huge PR and marketing teams working to uphold the company’s image and reputation. However, there are facts that even the best PR in the world can’t disguise. It is essential to recognise Greenwashing in order to make an informed decision on a purchase. Remember, you vote with your money.

How to spot Greenwashing.

  1. Making changes to branding: This is a very clever and simple tactic to quickly mislead the customer that significant changes have been made to be more ‘green’. But changing their branding to green is often the only change made. Alternatively, adding natural images such as leaves or greenery often creates the image that buying the product is making a sustainable choice. Consumers are more likely to purchase an item if they think it is sustainable and this simple tactic works in misleading customers.
  2. Misleading numbers and percentages: Numbers are a fantastic tool to look ‘convincing’. Numbers, and particularly percentages can be manipulated to ‘look good’, for example, a company could claim that they use 50% more recycled materials than previous products, but this figure is applicable for 2% becoming 3%, or 4% becoming 6%. The claims are correct but only a business happy to greenwash would be proud of those statistics.
  3. Using vague and un-backed up claims:A fantastic example of this is the phrase ‘we do our best to…’, this is immeasurable and therefore irrelevant in terms of evidence of sustainable changes. You will often find that there is no evidence or numbers to support such claims.
  4. Focusing on the insignificant: Businesses hone in on the fact that they have made a small sustainable change while ignoring much larger, damaging facts. A simple example is for a bottle of unsustainably sourced palm oil to be sold in a recycled plastic bottle with song and dance packaging about how important using recycled materials is. Similarly, it is often seen that fast fashion giants have ‘sustainable’ ranges, (which are often questionably sustainable), while neglecting the fact that they are a leading world polluter and disguising this with miniscule efforts to create sustainable options, when in reality they are probably jumping on the environmental bandwagon. Greenwashing PR will focus solely on the recycled bottles and the ‘sustainable’ ranges.

Where to shop instead.

  1. Businesses that can provesustainable third-party certification, or working towards gaining them. Examples of sustainable certifications are: Vegan society, B-corp, PETA, Energy Star, Fair Trade.
  2. Brands thatexplicitly state factual information; the certifications, ingredients, procedures that they can prove. They will state these clearly and directly, with no meaningless claims or greenwashed buzz phrases. If a brand is purely sustainable, it has no need to fluff-up or exaggerate any information, the product will speak for itself.
  3. Brands that are clear on whether their marketing claims refer to the packaging, the product itself, or a portion of either. Always seek explicitness. 

What have we learnt?

We’ve learnt that there is an environmental awakening among consumers and therefore corporations will deploy some very questionable Greenwashing tactics to make sales. Many claims get stretched beyond the point of believability, and I hope that you have learnt how and when to recognise Greenwashing. Moving forward, you can always use your voice to call out Greenwashing, and vote with your money for businesses that strive for a greener climate in everything they do. Many small businesses believe in this, and you’ll never regret supporting a small business. 



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