What is Greenwashing?

As we are becoming more aware of the negative impact of climate change on our planet, many people are making changes in their own lives to protect the environment. From fashion to food, some businesses have realised that consumers are more likely to buy their products if they appear to be environmentally friendly. 

What is greenwashing? 

Greenwashing is a marketing ploy that exploits consumers’ growing interest to buy products that do not damage the environment. This could be anything from a change to green-coloured packaging, to making unsubstantiated claims which suggest that a product is environmentally-friendly, even when it is not. In fact, companies who greenwash have been found to put more money into marketing their product to appear green rather than creating sustainable and environmental practices. Sometimes, however, this greenwashing is not intentional but the result of a company focusing on solving one environmental issue without considering the product’s wider impact. 

Why is greenwashing problematic? 

Greenwashing is problematic because it misleads customers. This can lead to behaviour that negatively impacts the planet, such as an increase in consumption as buyers are not fully aware of the impact of their purchases. Greenwashing can also create mistrust in green products, even the ones that are helping the environment. Not only can businesses who greenwash benefit from an increased number of sales, but it can also lead to justifying an increase in the price of supposedly environmentally-friendly products even when they have the same environmental impact as cheaper products not marketed in this way. 

How can I avoid greenwashed products? 

Knowing how to differentiate between genuinely green products and products that have been green-washed is an important way in which consumers can limit their negative impact on the planet. Businesses that use greenwashing will often incorporate leading buzzwords, such as ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘non-toxic’, and ‘natural’, into their marketing. Becoming familiar with the symbols for official certification advertised on products which support their environmental slogans will help you avoid being misled by unsubstantiated claims. You can also dig deeper into these claims by visiting the businesses’ websites to look for transparent information about their sustainable practices. The best way, however, to protect the planet is to avoid over-consumption and to only buy green products that you need and will use. 


Esmé Layton


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