How to tell if a company is greenwashing - a busy parent's guide
You've probably heard the word 'greenwashing' bandied about, but what's the big deal?
Greenwashing is a sneaky scheme in which a company uses marketing tactics to exaggerate or misrepresent the environmental benefits of its products or services in order to appeal to an ever-growing market of environmentally conscious consumers. Yikes. So how do smart - but busy - cookies like you spot greenwashing?
Vague and broad claims
Companies that make broad and unspecific claims like "eco-friendly" or "sustainable" without providing any specific details are often greenwashing. This goes hand-in-hand with:
Lack of transparency
Companies that are truly committed to sustainability are usually really proud of their hard work and will be transparent about their environmental impact and their efforts to reduce it. If a company is not willing to provide information about their environmental practices or impact, it raises serious red flags. A business truly committed to sustainability should be able to provide specific examples and evidence to back up their claims, and be happy to elaborate when asked!
Lack of third-party certifications or confusing labels / certifications
Legitimate eco-friendly products or services are often certified by independent third-party organizations that verify their environmental impact. If a company is claiming to be eco-friendly but doesn't have any third-party certifications, there's something not quite right. Some companies use labels or certifications that sound environmentally friendly, but are actually meaningless or misleading. Look for well-known, reputable certifications like GOTS, Rainforest Alliance, or Fair Trade to ensure that a product's environmental claims are legitimate.
If a company claims to be environmentally friendly but engages in practices that are clearly harmful to the environment, you guessed it - greenwashing alert! In fact, the first use of the word 'greenwashing' seems to have been in 1986 by environmental activist Jay Westerveld regarding the apparent hypocrisy from a beach resort hotel posting notices about reusing towels to protect nearby reefs - when the resort itself was expanding into those same waters.
And don't get me started on companies that have a sustainable line that's a tiny percentage of their business...15% sustainable means they know that 85% isn't!
Exaggerated or misleading claims
Some companies may use misleading or exaggerated claims to make their products appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. For example, a company may claim that their product is "100% natural" when it contains synthetic chemicals or use images of natural landscapes to create a false impression of eco-friendliness.
All in all, the best way to determine if a company is truly environmentally friendly is to do your research. Look for evidence to back up a company's environmental claims, and don't be afraid to ask questions if you're unsure!