Find our top 5 tips to avoid greenwashing.
What is greenwashing?
“Greenwashing” is the practice of marketing a product or a brand as being greener or more environmentally friendly than they really are. As people are increasingly aware of their impact on the planet, many companies have seen this as a great business potential. Unfortunately many of them just try to appear eco-friendly through their image and marketing rather than through real changes. It is called “greenwashing”.
How to identify greenwashing?
Here are our TOP 5 tips to identify and avoid greenwashing.
1. Be cautious of products making generic claims
Be cautious of generic claims like “100% natural” or “environmentally friendly” without information as to how or why. Products that make generic claims, such as “eco-friendly” or “green,” without providing any specific information to support those claims are often guilty of greenwashing.
One way that companies greenwash products is by using vague or ambiguous language. For example, a company might claim that its product is “made with sustainable materials,” but not specify what those materials are or how they were sustainably sourced. Another common greenwashing tactic is to make claims that are only partially true. For example, a company might claim that its product is “carbon neutral,” but only because it offsets its emissions by investing in renewable energy projects elsewhere.
Be wary of generic environmental claims, such as “eco-friendly” or “green.” Ask for specific information to support these claims, such as what percentage of the product is made from recycled materials or how the product’s manufacturing process reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Here are some examples of products that make generic claims and do greenwashing:
- A clothing company that claims its products are “made with sustainable materials,” but doesn’t specify what those materials are or how they were sustainably sourced.
- A car company that claims its vehicles are “fuel-efficient,” but only because they have a hybrid engine. The company doesn’t mention that the vehicles also have a large carbon footprint due to their manufacturing process and the materials they are made from.
- A food company that claims its products are “organic,” but only because they contain a small percentage of organic ingredients. The company doesn’t mention that the products also contain a number of synthetic chemicals and additives.
2. Avoid products that make irrelevant claims
One common example of greenwashing with irrelevant claims. One popular example is the use of the term “CFC-free.” CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, are ozone-depleting substances that were banned in the United States in 1996. However, some companies still use the term “CFC-free” to market their products, even though it is no longer relevant because these roducts are banned.
Another example of greenwashing with irrelevant claims is when a company claims that its product is “natural.” This term is often used to suggest that a product is better for the environment, but there is no legal definition of the term “natural.” As a result, companies can make false or misleading claims about their products being natural without any consequences.
For example, a company might claim that its shampoo is natural because it contains plant-based ingredients. However, the shampoo may also contain other ingredients that are harmful to the environment, such as synthetic fragrances or preservatives. Consumers should be skeptical of any product that claims to be natural without providing any specific information about its ingredients.
3. Look for an independent third party certification
One of the best ways to avoid greenwashing is to look for third-party certifications. Third-party certifications are awarded by independent organizations that have developed standards for environmental or social performance. When a company receives a third-party certification, it means that it has met the standards of that organization.
There are many different third-party certifications available, covering a wide range of environmental and social issues. Some of the most common certifications include:
- Energy Star: This certification is awarded to products that meet energy efficiency standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): This certification is awarded to products made from wood that has been harvested from sustainably managed forests.
- Fairtrade: This certification is awarded to products that have been produced in accordance with Fairtrade standards, which promote social and economic justice for producers and workers.
- B Corporation: This certification is awarded to businesses that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
- EU Ecolabel: This certification is a voluntary scheme established in 1992 by the European Union. It is awarded to goods and services that meet high environmental standards throughout their entire life cycle, from raw material extraction through production and distribution to disposal. It is recognized in all EU member states and in many other countries around the globe.
- RSPO: The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a global, multi-stakeholder organization that has developed a set of environmental and social criteria for the production of sustainable palm oil. RSPO certification is a voluntary certification system that assures consumers that the palm oil they are buying has been produced in accordance with these criteria.
However, not all third party certification can be trusted. Here are some tips for choosing third-party certifications:
- Look for certifications from reputable organizations. There are many different third-party certification programs, so it is important to do your research before you choose one. Look for certifications from organizations that are known for their credibility and expertise.
- Make sure the certification is relevant to the product or service you are buying. For example, if you are buying a new washing machine, look for a certification that is specific to energy efficiency.
- Check the certification standards. Before you buy a product, check the certification standards to see what requirements the company must meet in order to receive the certification. This will help you to understand what the certification actually means.
It is important to note that third-party certifications are not a perfect solution to the problem of greenwashing. Some companies may try to game the system by getting certified by organizations with weak standards. However, third-party certifications are still a valuable tool for consumers who are trying to make sustainable choices.
5. Look for the packaging
While a product may be green, is the packaging green as well? One of the most important ways that packaging can contribute to sustainability is by reducing waste. Packaging can also be designed to be reusable, which further reduces waste.
Packaging can also help to protect the environment. For example, packaging can be made from recycled materials, which reduces the demand for virgin materials. Packaging can also be designed to be compostable, which means that it will break down and not pollute the environment.
Finally, packaging can help to conserve resources. For example, packaging can be designed to be lightweight, which can reduce fuel consumption during shipping. Packaging can also be designed to be efficient in terms of space, which can reduce the amount of packaging that is needed.
5. Don’t be misled by the design
Green is the color of nature, and it is often associated with environmentalism and sustainability. As a result, many companies use green colors and images in their marketing materials to create the impression that their products and services are environmentally friendly. However, not all companies that use green colors and images are truly committed to sustainability. Some companies engage in greenwashing, which is the practice of making misleading or false environmental claims about a product or service.
For example, a company might use a green logo, package their products in green packaging, or use images of nature in their advertising. While these green colors and images may create the impression that a company is environmentally friendly, they may not be telling the whole story. For example, a company might use green packaging for a product that is actually harmful to the environment. Or, a company might use images of nature in their advertising for a product that is produced in a way that damages the environment.
MacDonalds or Coca-Cola might have green color on their logo, that doesn’t make them eco-friendly!
Where can I find reliable eco-friendly brands?
If despite these tips, you still feel unsure whether to trust a brand or not, don’t worry we were in the same boat! Everything started when we were looking for a single place where we could find all the eco-friendly brands that we can trust. We didn’t find such a place, so at Easy Eco Tips, we created our eco-brand directory. People always ask us if we have brand recommendations, and so we decided to start testing, trying brands, and recommending them if we thought they were genuinely having a positive impact on the planet.
How does the eco-brand directory work?
Very simple! It’s just a catalogue of sustainable brands, that we classified by type of product to make the search easier. You can find eco-brands for phone cases, for clothing, for cleaning products, anything you need! It’s not an online shop, we don’t sell the products ourselves. Just a catalogue with a link to every brand’s page.