Eco-Friendly, Sustainable, Renewable, Green, Zero-Waste, Recyclable. These are some of the terms we see all the time on packaging and in marketing. Sadly, in many instances, these are merely just a "marketing slogan" and you're being "Greenwashed".
Investopedia defines Greenwashing as "the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly."
This is usually done by using slogans similar to those noted above and promoting a product as something that is more environmentally friendly than it really is.
You don't even realise it's a problem
There are two problems with Greenwashing.
Firstly, consumers are duped into purchasing an item that isn't as friendly as it is made out to be (and it's completely legal to do so). This is marketing and PR at it's finest. They aren't being malicious - but doing their job to a point where slogans are promoted to the point where consumers are completely bought in to it's perception, rather than the products reality.
Secondly, consumers become more sceptical about those real environmentally friendly products that aren't Greenwashed. These are more often than not smaller firms / start-ups that don't have multi-million pound marketing budgets.
Surely this is illegal?
Nope. Firms that Greenwash do not break any laws. Their PR and Marketing use language that creates a perception. Here's an example:
"100% Recyclable plastic"
Sounds great doesn't it? It's completely recyclable. This has created the impression that this plastic is better than someone else's plastic. In truth, this is still plastic, and as only 9% of the 8+ billion tonnes of plastic produced actually gets recycled, this plastic has a particularly high chance of not being recycled.
Being 100% Recyclable doesn't mean it's going to get recycled. Whilst the slogan isn't incorrect, when you think of the overall effect and friendliness to the planet - it's no better.
What can you do to avoid being Greenwashed?
Marketing teams have always been great at selling us things we don't need - after all it is their job. Consumers need to be more savvy during their purchase.
Think about whether the claim being made can actually be backed up. Reading the small print / FAQ will often answer most questions.
Don't fall for the Eco tagline and the nice looking green leaf on the packaging. Think about whether an Eco product that comes in a single use plastic container or plastic wrapping is truly Eco?
The devil is in the detail. Whilst many claims can be made, companies can't lie to you. Next time you see an Eco slogan, take a seat and think about what they are promoting and research whether this is really true.
Greenwashing isn't new and there's a lot of it out there. However, consumers are becoming savvier; looking in to the real meaning of that slogan and making informed decisions. As more and more consumers continue to do this, we hope, Greenwashing will become a thing of the past.