Greenwashing is at an all-time high as brands struggle to keep up with the demands to change their fundamental core values (or lack thereof) to reduce their carbon footprint and implement sustainable practices. For more prominent brands, completely turning their production on its head and reevaluating their whole supply chain to be more eco-friendly will take an immense amount of time – however, that is not stopping many from trying.
As or others, they are taking shortcuts to pretend they are on the same path mainly to make a profit versus attempting to make real change and thus Greenwashing. If you want to learn how to understand, spot, and acknowledge it, below are five signs of Greenwashing.
Greenwash Lie #1: Tiny Moves = Big Change
For corporations to claim a product/service is “eco-friendly” without providing access to specific data is misleading for consumers – thus Greenwashing.
For example, a hotel asking for guests to reuse towels to help the environment is misleading. In reality, the hotel wants to save on cleaning expenses. Therefore, the hotel pretending their intention doesn’t serve a financial endeavor is a form of greenwashing.
The same concept of “withholding information” applies to the fashion industry. When H&M clothing stated a collection of garments as “sustainably made,” the company ended up misleading their customers to think the whole garment was included. However, only the tag on the clothing was considered sustainable.
Greenwash Lie #2: Straight-Up Lying
Slews of brands feel empowered to straight-up lie about their product or service being ethically and sustainably produced. Many people will take what is advertised on a surface level hoping they have made thoughtful choices. Especially when there are many underprivileged that cannot afford to think about the environment. To twist the knife, these communities are the people that need help the most.
For those that do have the resources and time, when you go to that business’s website and find no evidence that its supply chain has made any effort to curve its ecological footprint or inspect its factories for fair practice, that’s a major red flag for greenwashing.
Some people may retort that some sites may not be up to date with displaying that type of information. I that I say – it is not the 1990s anymore; therefore, it should be the bare minimum for a functional business to 1.) have a standard website and 2.) display proof of claims. Whether it is by pictures or certifications, any business that wants to make eco-friendly declarations must be able to back it up.
Greenwash Lie #3: Broad Strokes
As mentioned in my terminology post, companies use “green” vernacular to describe the ecological impact, but these terms are merely concepts rather than definitions of positive impact. These terms are broad strokes that need to encompass more specific detail to hold companies accountable for their marketing claims.
Much like the previous greenwash lies, using broad terminology to claim a complete product and service with a low carbon footprint is a Greenwashing lie.
For example, when a brand advertises a product made with eco-friendly material like bamboo, it doesn’t mean automatically mean the brand ethically-sourced and producd it free of harmful chemicals. Additionally, it doesn’t even mean that the bamboo is of great quality!
Greenwashing Lie #4: Whitelying Certifications
You even have to be careful when a brand declares their products are certified. What if the certificate is as vague as the term “sustainable” or “eco-friendly”? Credentials are a helpful tool for backing brands for transparency; however, they shouldn’t be the sole source of credibility.
Some companies like to “use third-party verification” or make up a certification of their own to sound like they are making impactful initiatives in the fashion industry. They know most people won’t check them – especially if they pick up the product in person.
But if you are online and want to do your due diligence and ensure your money is invested toward brands that align with your values, it’s essential to dig deeper into these certifications. Doing so helps ensure these certifications are a legitimate and valuable addition to the brand. Accountability for ourselves and the companies is key to making a change in our global carbon footprint and the people that make the products come to life.