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Greenwashing and How to Avoid It as a Business

How many times have you heard of the term “all natural,” “eco-friendly,” or “going green” within the past few years? Likely a lot. We’re tired of it and as an environmental marketing agency, we want to guide you to be authentic in voicing your goals as a sustainable business and recognizing when other brands are being authentic.

According to Merriam-Webster, greenwashing is “expressions of environmentalist concerns especially as a cover for products, policies, or activities.” In other words, it’s when a company spends time claiming they’re environmentally friendly when in reality they’re not and aren’t making any efforts to do so. It deceives people to believe their products, practices or services are sustainable.

Slapping an “eco-friendly” label on products reduces the value of the businesses that are actually being genuinely environmentally-friendly.

Greenwashing has been a thing for many years and can be tricky to identify and determine whether products are actually eco-friendly. It’s become more of an issue as the trend of sustainability has risen. More and more people are choosing to buy environmentally friendly products and are being misled by these companies.

According to a survey done in 2008 conducted by communications agency Cone Inc, 2,129 products that claimed to be green were soon revealed that 98% of those products were not green and were at fault for greenwashing.

H&M is a well know fast fashion brand that has made many claims that they're focusing now on sustainable fashion. According to a news article published in 2021, H&M was found to be at the top of the list for false claims, with 96% of their claims not matching their actions. Furthermore BooHoo, another fast fashion brand, put out a 'sustainable collection.' It turns out the items that were 'sustainable' were found to have acrylic, a type of plastic, in them. They're misleading shoppers and not taking any action whatsoever to lower their impact on the planet.

If customers find out you are greenwashing, you’ll lose trust and loyalty within your audience which is what you don’t want. Being transparent in your sustainability efforts is key. This includes how your products, packaging and manufacturing is sustainable. It helps to create a designated section on your website and social media platforms that specifically states how you are committed to being sustainable, perhaps with outlined steps.

Furthermore, sustainability should be an overall goal/strategy of your company, ingrained into your core values. It helps to also use specific keywords and phrases, rather than just “environmentally friendly” or show specifically what makes your products/business environmentally friendly. Also, showing data and metrics that you’ve used to track your sustainability efforts won’t hurt. Being patient but consistent with achieving your goals is crucial to crafting your environmentally-friendly business.

As a consumer, we should be looking beyond the label and doing our research into companies before purchasing products. It’s also worth considering looking into the history of businesses to see if they’ve previously green-washed and are untrustworthy. Websites and social media pages are where all this information will/should be, so as a business it’s important to disclose this to customers.

As a business, it’s important to build trust with consumers and stand out in the best way you can in comparison to other businesses. Take these few tips and possibly share it with your audience to educate them about greenwashing, and how your business is avoiding doing this.

Remember to find your voice and be authentic as possible!


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