Green is in folks. Consumers want Earth-friendly products and brands that attempt to curb their impact on the Earth. To appeal to this new generation of buyers, companies have increasingly emphasized their environmental policies, highlighting recycled materials and eco-friendly products. However, are brands going green, or are they merely presenting a green image to the public?
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by businesses to capitalize on the growing demand for environmentally-friendly products. Through vague claims, misleading statistics, or even outright false information, consumers are lured into buying a product they do not support. Although the information can be somewhat true, it is often highly embellished to captivate potential customers and give them the final push to buy the product.
Companies use many tactics to draw in consumers through greenwashing:
1. Being vague: brands outline indistinct sustainability claims and goals without any evidence to prove the company is moving towards the goal.
2. Green product, dirty company: just because the product is made of recycled or sustainable materials doesn’t mean the company is environmentally friendly. Many clothing brands have products made out of recycled plastic bottles, but their overproduction and poor labor conditions do not support this Earth-Friendly ideal.
3. Green visual marketing: businesses create green or Earth-toned packaging with images of nature to make the consumer believe they are a sustainable brand. Plastic water bottles are often guilty of this, with beautiful mountain scenes on the labels.
4. Buzzwords: throwing around words like “eco” and “sustainable” to trigger a reaction from the consumer is a common practice.
5. Recycling: this shaky topic has many directions to go in terms of false, misleading, or embellished claims. Recycling programs are not transparent and much of what is “recycled” by the company goes into a landfill.
So, what can you do about this? These marketing campaigns are designed to fool consumers, so what protection do we have against them? To uncover greenwashing, employ these tricks:
1. Look for certifications: third-party certifications prove a brand’s devotion to the environment. Search for B Corporations, USDA Organic, Fair Trade, and more.
2. Transparency: find brands that are helping the environment by reviewing their sustainability claims. Are they specific and clear as opposed to vague and full of buzzwords?
3. Over-exaggeration: green marketing is one thing, but greenwashing is another. If claims are obviously embellished or packaging is too suggestive, you may need to look further into the business.
4. Do your research: at the end of the day, the best thing to do is research the brand you intend to buy from. The internet has the best information about company policy for the consumer to decide where to purchase from.
Despite these businesses luring customers to buy their harmful products, it is crucial to remember there are still companies in the world doing good for the environment. As much as it is important to condemn destructive brands, we as consumers must show strong support for those working towards a better, more sustainable future for all of us.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.