What is greenwashing, and how can we avoid being greenwashed?

What is greenwashing, and how can we avoid being greenwashed?

Oh, greenwashing: the great marketing tool of our generation. The obstacle that stands in the way of caring, well-intentioned consumers purchasing products that reflect their caring, well-intentioned ways. Greenwashing is basically what Kmart Veja knockoffs are to the real Veja’s: an inexpensive way of leeching off of the hard work environmentally and socially conscious brands do in order to maximise their profits. They’re cheats, and we shouldn’t be helping them continue in their Tiger Woods ways. Can you tell how much we love greenwashing here at Ethical Made Easy?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, we’re here to help. Greenwashing is a marketing ploy used to portray that a certain product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is (if it is even environmentally friendly at all). Greenwashing is used to convince and mislead the consumer—more often than not, the consumer who is trying to make lasting positive changes in their everyday life—the product they are about to invest their money in has been made with the good of the environment in mind. Greenwashing is false advertising in one of its worst forms, and it makes us absolutely furious. 

The ethical and sustainable industry, especially in regards to ethical and sustainable fashion, is on the rise (can we get a whoop whoop!). Because of this, however, companies who have no interest in the values attached to being an environmentally and socially conscious business are seizing this growth as an opportunity to make bigger bucks with a detrimental and manipulative advertising technique. Greenwashing preys on the compassion and kindness more and more consumers are beginning to show when purchasing products, and the companies who are using this as a means of fake advertising should be ashamed. They should also be forced to back to Grade One to learn basic manners or locked up in jail. Either one of those will do us just fine. 

There are consistently used tactics companies will employ to convince you their products are as green as they come. One of the prominent go-to’s is the over-use of symbols associated with nature, including leaves, baby animals, wild landscapes, and green shit. Lots of green shit. Also, if you email a certain company that is claiming to be environmentally aware and they either dance around the question you’ve asked or do not respond at all, immediately drop them from your Christmas shopping list. They don’t deserve your hard-earned money. The companies serious about sustainability will be implementing this not only into their products but also into process in which their products are made, the packaging they use, and the charities and organisations they partner with and support. 

There is good news, though! Because of greenwashing’s widespread use, we are now well equipped to identify it and the way in which brands use it to make us buy their products. The absolute best thing you can do to avoid greenwashing is to do your own research. If a product has some legit-sounding labels on it—Certified B Corp, 100% Organic, GOTS Certified are some of the legitimate certifications that are misused—there is a fat chance the product is not legit at all. Have a look on the company’s website or the website of the labels the product is claiming to be certified under. This may sound a little time-consuming at first but once you know, you know, and you can spread the word about the companies who are faking their green ways and those who aren’t.

Transparency is a massive indicator that a company is walking the walk, not just talking the good green talk. You can be damn sure that if a company has abided by ethical and sustainable practices through every aspect of their supply chain they will want to provide all the necessary information to their customers, and businesses like us will be shouting their names from the rooftops. Not meaning to toot our own horn, but we are a good option as well. We do our absolute best to bring you easy to digest information that’ll give you the tools to make informed purchasing decisions, and the brands featured in our Ethical Brand Directory have gone through an EME style ethics check before they’ve found their way onto our site. 

Moral of the story: greenwashing is the very naughty child no one should give their lunch money to. You’re the consumer, you hold the power with your wallet and you can choose where you put that money. If a company uses fluffy language but has no evidence to back it up, exit out of that tab. If they’ve consistently had bad product reviews and are not showing any signs of acting in an ethical and sustainable way, don’t give them another thought. Be wary of fancy language, do your research, and ask questions. You have the right to not be manipulated by companies with dollar signs for pupils, so show those big bad companies who’s boss.

Image by the incredibly talented Project Stop Shop.

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