“How not to get duped by Greenwashing”
Everyday will see us being suckered and duped by some sort of Greenwashing, and most of the time we won’t even realise it!
It makes my blood boil when we make a conscious decision to try to do the greener thing, buy the greener thing, and make the greener and more environmentally friendly choice, only to discover later down the line that we’ve been duped by a clever bit of Greenwashing! And in fact, we probably haven’t done the greener thing, or bought the greener thing, or made the more environmentally friendly choice at all!
By now most of us have probably seen or heard the term ‘Greenwashing’ as it’s been popping up everywhere over the last few years. While we may have heard of it, many of us might not really understand what it means, how it impacts us, or how we can spot it.
So what is Greenwashing?
Defining Greenwashing can sometimes be tricky as it seems to be a very fluid term, able to morph depending on the very context it is being discussed in.
But, in basic terms, Greenwashing is simply where those wanting you to spend your money with them, create a clever ‘Green Illusion’ and use misleading information to appear more sustainable, green, or environmentally friendly than they really are, to convince you to part with your money and choose them as the ‘Greener option’.
We, as the consumer, usually have no idea we are being greenwashed, and often think we are choosing the greener and more environmentally friendly option, because the advertising, influencing, branding, and public messaging does such a good job to convince us.
Greenwashing can range from very subtle ‘green branding’ all the way through to outright lies.
So how does Greenwashing impact us?
Attracting consumers with an environmental and social conscience to ‘cash in’ on the ‘Green Market’, has become a key focus for many companies which means greenwashing is rife in so many industries and sectors.
Those who want us to spend our money on their products or services have a real financial incentive to appear green, sustainable, and socially conscious, even if they are not. So their marketing agenda and spin develops their ‘green angle’… Greenwashing…
We, as consumers, are then on the receiving end of this spin, and it is easy to forget that our best interests are not at the heart of many companies. Their own bottom line is generally the most important thing to them, and if they can ‘cash in’ on looking a bit more environmentally friendly via their marketing agendas and campaigns, then they will.
Which in turn impacts how they get us to spend our money, and makes it much harder for us as consumers to navigate our way through all the bullshit, to be able to identify the REAL ‘Greener’ option.
So how do we spot Greenwashing?
Spotting Greenwashing also isn’t that easy. We, as consumers, still don’t automatically assume companies are lying to us or ‘convincing’ us to buy their products or services, and therefore our default is to believe what we are told by them, which makes us very susceptible to their Greenwashing.
A great recent example is an advert for Innocent Drinks where Coca Cola (who own Innocent Drinks) sang about helping to save the planet by buying their drinks. Unsurprisingly and thankfully the advert was banned, but I wonder how many people were sucked into thinking (and didn’t question) that choosing Innocent Drinks was in some way beneficial to saving the planet?
Companies frequently adopt surprisingly simple ways in which to spin and market their products and services to appear more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and therefore more attractive to us.
Packaging design is a great example of this, research has shown that by simply changing the packaging of a product to be ‘green’ and more ‘natural looking’, and including some non descript ‘eco’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ labels, many consumers will be more likely to buy the product thinking it is the more environmentally friendly option, and because they think it is greener, they are willing to pay more for it.
Yes, you did read that correctly, companies can change their packaging to look ‘greener’, do nothing to make the product more environmentally friendly, and can actually charge us more money for it!
So now you know a little bit more about Greenwashing, read on for some of our top tips to help you stop being duped by Greenwashing.
1 – Remember the bottom line is the most important thing to the majority of companies – their environmental impact, carbon footprint, social conscience, and end consumers are usually not high on their list of priorities. And they have BIG marketing budgets in order to keep you buying, so try to keep this in mind when you feel yourself being sucked into parting with your cash.
2 – The majority of companies have no real green credentials – companies with REAL green credentials are sadly still in the minority, so remain sceptical and ask questions before you buy.
A bit of green branding, or some unsubstantiated green claims does not make a company, product or service environmentally friendly. It is easier for a company to engage in a bit of greenwashing than implement any real environmental change.
It takes thought, change, effort, hard work and integrity as a business, to earn and keep REAL green credentials, which is why many try to create the ‘green illusion’ via Greenwashing instead of putting in the work.
3 – Buying ‘green’ products or services doesn’t ‘fix’ the planet – remember that simply buying a so called ‘green product’ or ‘service’ doesn’t automatically reverse climate change or fix our planet.
Just because a product or service claims to be the greener option doesn’t mean by buying it we have any impact on reducing global warming. Look instead to reduce your consumption. Only buy products or services that you actually need, and then choose the greenest option.
4 – Remember everyone is usually trying to sell you something – if companies recognise so called ‘greener’ options of their products or services capture the ‘green market’, then these will be marketed, even if it they aren’t really the ‘greener’ option.
Just because a product or service claims to be the ‘greener option’ doesn’t mean it really is, which ties in very nicely with our final tip below.
5 – Do your homework – the only way to know if a company, product, or service really is the greener option is by doing your homework.
Slow down, step away from impulse buying, and instead research the companies, services and products you are considering buying. You need to be sure if they really are the greener option or simply engaging in Greenwashing.
So there you have it, some of our top tips to help you stop being duped by Greenwashing.
Ultimately we are all consumers. Greenwashing is a clever tactic used to keep us consuming while thinking we are making the better consumer choice.
For more green tips and inspiration pop over to Instagram or LinkedIn and check out @achievinggreenness where we provide you with the motivation, evidence, and tools you may need to become greener.
If you are a business and want help to become greener and have been looking for someone to help you start then get in touch, we offer Mini Green Audits all the way up to helping you obtain REAL green accreditations and ISO certifications, and we provide bespoke Green packages for all your requirements.